Let It Go

Courtesy of Real Buddha Quotes with the original sutra here.

So…

No really

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Dogen and No-Self

Many Zen Buddhists, or just Buddhists in general, know Dogen’s famous quote about “studying the self”. It’s a popular reminder of what Buddhism is all about. I’ve seen various translations in various books, but I have yet to see an example of a bilingual translation until now:

http://spacenowhere.com/blog/meditation-group/zen/

I always like to see translations like this, because I’ve learned to distrust English translations of Buddhist texts that don’t include any references to the original language.  There are a lot of bad Buddhist quotes and translations floating around, and even something simple as the Buddhist “nembutsu” or reciting the Buddha’s name, gets mistranslated a lot. More on that in an old post.

Anyhow, I digress.  Looking at Dogen’s original writing, a few things I noticed as a language nerd:

  • Since this was written in 13th century, not the 21st century, it uses more archaic Japanese.
  • Similarly, the spellings are different: instead of saying toiu, it is spelled toifu, though it was probably pronounced the same.
  • Not surprisingly, Dogen uses some obscure Zen-Buddhist terms that even the Japanese language site above has to provide footnotes for, such as Goseki (悟迹) which means the period after Enlightenment.

Anyhow, regardless of the language, this quotation is still one of the best in Buddhism in my opinion.  Even Buddhists have to pause and remember to take stock about why they’re practicing Buddhism.  Contemporary history is rife with examples of Buddhist teachers who went off the rails, and of course this can happen to anyone, so it’s good to remember why we practice Buddhism.  Dogen’s words are a good reminder for us all.

Harmful Speech

In Buddhism the appropriate way to speak is divided into four components: refrain from false speech, refrain from slanderous speech, refrain from harsh speech and refrain from idle chatter or gossip. The effects of harmful speech are not as immediately evident as those of bodily actions, so its importance and potential is sometimes overlooked. But if we stop and reflect, we will see that speech can have enormous consequences for good or for harm. Speech can break lives, create enemies and start wars, or it can give wisdom, heal divisions and create peace. If your words are not kind, compassionate, helpful or wise, then remain silent. #words #quotes #speech #compassion #buddhism #lamayesherabgye #motivation #inspiration #instagood #spiritual #innerpeace #mindfulness #love

A post shared by Yeshe Rabgye (@buddhism_guide) on

A wise Buddhist minister I know once told me that words are like toothpaste: once you get them out of the tube you cannot put them back in.

Even as recently as last week, as work stress has accumulated, I’ve caught myself blowing up at another coworker in frustration, and although everyone moves on and we keep the project moving forward, I am left with a continued sense of guilt over what I said.

The Buddha didn’t call it harmful speech for nothing…

Self-Loathing

This post was inspired by a recent post on Instagram by Buddhist teacher Karma Yeshe Rabgye:

Loving-kindness or “metta” (also translated as “goodwill”) is a really important concept in Buddhism and an actual form of meditation practice. This guide on Access to Insight provides a much more detailed explanation of what metta as a Buddhist practice means, but in particular I wanted to post this quotation:

Right at the start, the meditation of loving-kindness should be developed towards oneself repeatedly in this way: “May I be happy and free from suffering” or “May I keep myself free from hostility and trouble and live happily” (though this will never produce the full absorption of contemplation). It is by cultivating the thought “May I be happy” with oneself as example, that one begins to be interested in the welfare and happiness of other living beings, and to feel in some sense their happiness as if it were one’s own: “Just as I want happiness and fear pain, just as I want to live and not to die, so do other beings.” So one should first become familiar with pervading oneself as example with loving-kindness.

When people demean or dehumanaize others, and we all know someone who habitually does this,1 it almost certainly extends from a kind of self-loathing. A person is uneasy, and insecure about themselves, so they learn to put others down as a way of self-affirmation. People who really hate themselves in turn are openly hostile towards others.

The antidote to hostility isn’t more hostility, but goodwill.

But all of this should begin with oneself. Even momentarily pausing to wish oneself to be happy and free from harm from time to time can cool the fires of self-loathing and help break the repeating mental habits that one accumulates to criticize oneself.

1 If you don’t know anyone like that, chances are, it’s you. ;p

Tired of Sitting? Try Walking Meditation

Hello everyone,

My efforts at meditation have begun as far back as my teenage years, when the only thing I knew about Buddhism was Shunryu Suzuki’s book “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind”. I’ve never been a particularly good meditator, nor a particularly dedicated one, but I have been able to keep up the practice off and on over the years.

These days, I am lucky to work at a place that has a “quiet room” of sorts, where I can often sit and meditate for 10-15 minutes a day, and usually 2-3 times a week.

But I was also recently inspired to take up walking meditation too after watching this helpful video by Bhikkhu Yuttadhammo:1

Walking meditation something is something I’ve only seen in Zen, where it’s called kinhin (経行), but this practice is actually more universal in Buddhism, and just like sitting meditation, has various ways of doing it. The particular form isn’t so important, so long as you find something you can stick to.

I’ve always had a little trouble with seated meditation, because of occasional problems with my legs, or just general restlessness, so I tried walking meditation as shown in the video above and it was very nice. My home happens to have a central hallway downstairs that runs all the way from one end of the house to the other, so it works very well for walking meditation, especially at night when the kids are asleep.2

Anyhow, try out the video above, and if you’re already meditating, try branching out into walking meditation too. You’re not forced to choose one or the other. In fact, it’s perfectly normal to blend the two in your practice.

Enjoy and peace!

1 I can’t remember when or how, but I remember conversing a little online with Bhikkhu Yuttadhammo a long, long time ago. Anyhow, good to see he’s well and making videos. 🙂

2 so long as I don’t step on kid’s toys. Legos really hurt!

Appreciating the Diamond Sutra

In a recent post, I talked about the latest Star Wars movie and its parallels with certain Buddhist sutras including the Diamond Sutra.

The Diamond Sutra is one of several “Perfection of Wisdom” sutras (more details here), but it’s most frequently associated with Zen Buddhism. My feelings toward Zen are mixed, and generally I’ve avoided it other than a few brief experimentations. Thus, I’ve not really spent much time studying the Diamond Sutra even though I own an old, used copy of Thich Nhat Hanh’s excellent translation.

But lately, since my little revelation above, I’ve been thinking about the sutra pretty frequently.

I feel one of the strengths of this sutras is that is touches upon many other points and teachings in Buddhism, but with an eye toward the Emptiness of all things.  This covers even the Pure Lands (a.k.a. “Buddha-fields”) of the Buddhas:

“What do you think, Subhuti? Does a bodhisattva create a serene and beautiful Buddha field?”

“No, World-Honored One. Why? To create a serene and beautiful Buddha field is not in fact to create a serene and beautiful Buddha field. That is why it is called creating a serene and beautiful Buddha field.”

The Buddha said, “So, Subhuti, all the Bodhisattva Mahasattvas should give rise to a pure and clear intention in this spirit. When they give rise to this intention, they should not rely on forms, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile objects, or objects of mind. They should give rise to an intention with their minds not dwelling anywhere.”

The sutra acts as a kind of antidote for getting attached to things, even Buddhist teachings and practices themselves.  It is not about “crazy wisdom” or other such nonsense, but like the earlier Sutra of the Simile of the Water Snake, the Diamond Sutra is about not getting hung up on things.  Even good things.

From time to time, I see Pure Land Buddhists getting really hung up on the Pure Land itself, including a lot of hair-splitting over details about the nature of Amitabha, particulars about the recitation of his name, etc.  These are the people who like to debate about doctrine, and concern themselves with tradition, unaware that the Pure Land they’re obsessing over is all in their heads. It isn’t the real Pure Land.

But the sutra also teaches about not getting hung up on getting hung up on things:

If you are caught in the idea that there is no dharma, you are still caught in the ideas of a self, a person, a living being, and a life span. That is why we should not get caught in dharmas or in the idea that dharmas do not exist. This is the hidden meaning when the Tathagata says, ‘Bhikshus, you should know that all of the teachings I give to you are a raft.’ All teachings must be abandoned, not to mention non-teachings.

This part is really important because I see some Buddhists imitating crazy behavior of past Zen teachers thinking that this will lead them to greater wisdom.  They happily spout some esoteric comment in a Zen story, or make a vague, clever quip online.  But it’s just imitation.  Such people are still getting hung up on something and patting themselves on the back about how clever they are.

At the end of the day, the Diamond Sutra is telling people to just breathe and focus on your life now.  Reel it in, pay attention, etc.

The Pure Land is real, and the formless wisdom of the past Zen masters is real too.  These two teachings are both an essential part of Buddhism too, but if you think you got it figured out, you probably don’t.

It sounds easy for me to say that from a relatively safe position of “authority” on the ol’ Blogosphere, but I still amaze myself from time to time how wrong I’ve been in the past, and how I still keep tripping up over the same things over and over.

So, while a medicine might taste bitter, it is still good to take that medicine nonetheless.  Such is the Diamond Sutra.  🙂

P.S.  Yes, you can get hung up on the Diamond Sutra too.  But then you can also get hung up on not trying to get hung up on the Diamond Sutra, too.  Ok, take a deep breath, and have a seat.