Zen 101

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Peace

With palms together,
Good Morning All,


This morning way before sunrise, I woke to go to a local church as I was invited to participate in an International Prayer for Peace. The air was chilly, 28 degrees. The church had a fairy large number of people there for a 5:00 AM service.
I dropped my cushion on the floor at the back, bowed, and took my seat. Only the minister saw me enter. I enjoyed my small anonymity and listened to the various prayers as they were recited one after another: Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Jain, Christian, Nichiren Buddhist, even a Native American prayer. I was asked to close the service with a few remarks.
The prayers were beautiful. Most beseech God for peace and asked for a world of compassion and understanding. So much desire for peace in that room. I could feel the people's need for serenity, it was almost palpable.
In between each prayer a bell was invited to ring.
I sat with complete attention.
When it came time for me to speak, I felt myself get up off my cushion and walk easily to the podium. I placed my attention on my breath, looked out at the group, and began to speak.
Peace, I said, was not something we should seek. Peace is something we are. We are peace when we set aside ourselves and our desires, our ego and our craving. We are peace when we open ourselves to others and listen to them as they speak. This is the work of peacemaking. It is deeply challenging, but very rewarding work.
This year I vow to not need to be in charge of anything. This year I vow to share. This year I vow to listen as deeply as I am capable to those addressing me. This year I vow to accept all beings as they are, warts and all. This year I vow to replace anger with love, hurt with compassion, and intolerance with patience. This is how peace happens. I know that I will not always be successful, but I vow to forgive myself when not and continue on with this work. If nothing else, I believe we are all worth the effort.

Be well.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A Change

Good Morning All,

Recently, I have decided to not blog daily on this site. I will be posting different sorts of posts, more like commentaries, I suppose, on Zen practice and Buddhist Sutras. I will do these as I can.

I have been writing this blog daily for a year now and I really need to break away from the habit of going to the computer first thing in the morning to write.

I still blog at my Yahoo 360 site, however, and those notes are more of a personal, day-to-day nature.

If interested, go to Yahoo 360 and type in my Yahoo ID, buddhist99

Be well.

Friday, December 22, 2006

On Being Alone

With palms together,
Good Morning All,
Another Friday. Hmmm. For those of you about to leave for work and those already at work, please enjoy your day today. Remember each moment is what it is; it is we who add the good or bad of it.
Last night before bed, I was studying a short sutra on being alone. The Buddha was teaching in this scripture that literally being alone was not necessary, nor was it a particularly good practice as seeking this way places our attention on the "I" of the equation.
There are some who prefer to be alone. I was one of them. I rationalized this by romanticizing the thing, you know, mental pictures of a seeker away from the crowd, treading the road less traveled, and so on. Yet, this was a form of delusion. It is a trap just as wickedly poisonous as that of seeking a crowd for approval. The truth is, I was uncomfortable with people, insecure in myself I relied far too heavily on their opinions of me for my opinion of myself.
The Buddha taught that the best way to be alone was to be mindful wherever we are. This way of mindfulness means, essentially, to practice being "all one." When we live as all one, our literal singularity is the universe and we are its sense organs.
Practice to be a partner in the process.
Be well.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Life of Buddha

With palms together,
Good Morning All,
Last night at Zen Center we held a "Movie Night." A Sangha member, Joshua, brought in a DVD projector. We sat on our zafus against one in the Zendo and projected the film on the other. I had brought in bags of party mix and some soft drinks. We had a very nice evening together.
The film was "the Life of the Buddha." It was a French made film, circa 2003, a documentary in English, and was beautifully photographed. It was essentially a anthropological and sociological study of the Buddha's life. The filmmakers interviewed countless Indians on location in India, and followed the archaeological investigations into the Buddha's life. Religious teachers from various traditions told the stories of the Buddha's birth, training, seeking, enlightenment, teaching, and death. These provided the necessary thread through the film.
In the end, however, after all is said and done, we should know that even such a one as the Buddha,was just a man and all that we say about him is fantasy. The real Buddha is the Universe aware of Itself in and through us.
When we make an idol of the Buddha and forget he was just a man, we do him and ourselves a grave disservice. What the Buddha taught is that we should turn our light inward, we should not be deceived by the icons and religions and philosophies and glitter that surrounds us, but rather we should unfold ourselves as universal witness.
In this way be become Buddha.
Be well.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Faith, Belief, and Practice

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Practice of the Buddha's Way requires our diligence and constant attention. In fact, these are the Buddha Way. In the morning, we open our eyes and consider the universe with compassion. We embrace our lives and embrace each other. This is our life.

One does not believe in Buddha. One does not believe in Dharma. One does not believe in Sangha. There is no dogma, no doctrine, no belief at all. There is just the practice of noticing, the practice of loving, and the practice of embracing.

In all of this, the core practice is faith: not in a God or a set of beliefs, but in ourselves and the universe. Such faith enables us to trust silence. It enables us to trust others. It is these that are the most challenging aspects of our practice.

Be well.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

All in a Day

With palms together,
Good Evening All,

This morning was different...I did not feel like posting. My apologies. After morning practice, My Little Honey and I went for a walk with our dogs. Then she went a-knitting and I went back to the Zendo. It was good to be there. Regular zazen at the Zen Center is a wonderful, priestly task. I enjoy puttering there, taking care of little things, like watering the plants or replacing the toilet paper and candles.

Susana from Juarez, Mexico joined me at the afternoon practice period. It was good to see her. She is such a good practitioner. We sat upright, then talked over tea in the kitchen until My Little Honey stopped by to pick me up. I rode my bike to Zen Center and it was pretty nasty outside on my ride in, but the weather had taken a turn for the worse since. We left the bike at Zen Center and headed home.

Tonight I sat at home in my home Zendo. I lit a stick of incense, bowed, and sat down. The time was short, but the sitting was just perfect. I then chanted the Maka Hanya Shin Gyo, Four Great Vows and quietly left the room.

Today Student Mu Shin had a surgical procedure and my Aunt had a bone marrow test. My prayers are with both.

Be well.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Mountains and Rivers in Morning

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

The silence of the early morning is broken by a siren in the distance. Like a bell, it brings me back to myself as I sit here to write to you.

Morning is not delicate. Open space, it receives sound and light. When through the day, such sound and light is everywhere, morning is still morning. Morning, an equivalent of zazen, does not require silence.

Just as a mountain sits as the rain pounds it, the people trample on it, or fire burns it, so morning opens to the day. Mountain does not require separateness. Morning and mountain are the same as zazen.

The river flows through the valley and as it flows it does not care whether a tree falls in it. It embraces the tree. Eventually the tree and the river become one. The river does not require a path. Morning, mountain and river are the same as zazen.

Sometimes it is our view of a thing that blinds us to seeing it.

Be well.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Time

With palms together,
Good Morning All,
 
My goodness here it is Sunday once more.  Have you noticed how time is so relative to age? When we are young and imagine all the benefits of being older, we so look forward to the passing of time that it slows.  And as aging people, we are not so looking forward to the end of days and time just becomes a torrent!
 
Life is like that.
 
The lesson is to not seek, but to be present. The relativity of time is teaching us this lesson and when we are ready to receive the teaching it is very good news.
 
Being present is timeless. Being present is being as it is.  Our discriminating mind, doing what it does, takes us away from this and thrusts us into the relativity of judgment, recrimination, and, expectation.  This mind must be mastered, but to master it is not to control it, it is to passively witness it.
 
Going back to an image I frequently use:  the motor is racing, but you don't have to put the car in gear. Let it race.  And as it races, you are serenely reflecting on its racing. Hoping it will stop racing will slow time down.
 
Be well.
 
 
 
 


Rev. Harvey So Daiho Hilbert, Ph.D. 
May All Beings Be Free From Suffering
On the web at:
 

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Making Light

With palms together,
Good Morning All,
 
Last night was so delightful.  We went to the synagogue for Friday evening services which was a children's service and Hanukkah candle lighting.  We had a dozen or so menorahs on a table and before we ate the children recited the blessings over and over as they themselves lit the first night's candles.  Such traditions are as  important as they are beautiful.
 
This season is a time of light.  Menorahs, Christmas trees,  and in the Buddhist tradition, the light of the Buddha's Enlightenment itself.  
 
To bring light into the world is an act of creation.  It is not hope, faith, or charity.  It is the thing itself.  It is dark, we make light. We light a candle, we turn a switch, we dress a tree, but as human beings we make light by cracking out of our shells and unfolding ourselves to the universe.
 
From a Zen Buddhist perspective, light and dark are literally of our own creation.  We do good or we do bad, and these things are judged more from our intent than from the outcome. If you are a theist, and you must have a God in your lives, you can easily understand this as God working through you. You and God are partners in creation: you are His hands, His eyes, His fingers, but you are also His mind...and He is yours.  In Zen, we see this as "Big Mind."  This is the open expanse of time and space, light and dark, the breath before the breath, of life and death.  
 
Now, go make light.
 
Be well.


Rev. Harvey So Daiho Hilbert, Ph.D. 
May All Beings Be Free From Suffering
On the web at:
 

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Hannukah and XM Satellite Radio

 
Good Morning All,
 
For those who celebrate Hanukkah, and for those interested in Jewish culture and tradition, XMSR Channel 108 begins this evening 24 hours per day broadcast of ail things Jewish through the Hanukkah season.
 
Be well. 
 
 


Rev. Harvey So Daiho Hilbert, Ph.D. 
May All Beings Be Free From Suffering
On the web at:
 

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Daily Message

With palms together,
Good Morning All,
 
One way that Zen differentiates itself from other religions, even from Buddhism itself, is on the issue of belief. Zen Buddhists are nothing if not iconoclastic. (An iconoclast is a breaker of icons).  There is a famous saying, "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!"  While this should not be taken literally, it should be held closely.
 
Buddhas, images of Buddhas, stories of Buddhas, miracles of Buddhas are all fictions. We create these images and stories, and then use them as yardsticks against which we measure ourselves.  This is wrong-headed.
 
When we break the images, burn the stories, and tear up the scriptures, we are on our own and must confront ourselves.  This is the heart of Buddhist practice and it is not for everyone.
 
We sit facing a wall.  Our bodies upright, our eyes open, our attention on everything present.  No belief.  No doctrine. No dogma. Just this.
 
So, this morning at the Zendo, I lit a stick of incense, bowed and sat down on my cushion.  Facing the wall, I met myself.  Facing myself, I let myself fall away. What is left?
 
Buddha.
 
Be well.
 
 


Rev. Harvey So Daiho Hilbert, Ph.D. 
May All Beings Be Free From Suffering
On the web at:
 

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Our Hurt

With palms together,
Good Morning All,
So many of you have written to ask how we can forgive and move on! It makes me think that perhaps we are taking ourselves way too seriously. People are people, we each seem to live in our own world made of our own thought and feelings, yet we somehow expect others to not only understand us, but perceive within our worldview. This is like asking two hurt puppies to nurture each other.
Will addressing the person who has hurt us make it better? Sometimes. It is doubtful. Only if we possess extraordinary listening skills would this be advised, in my opinion. Getting something "off our chest" is too often for our benefit, yet we go around rationalizing that it is for the benefit of the other. In fact, it actually amounts to 'dumping' our load on someone else's shoulders.
If someone has hurt us, perhaps we should look deeply into the hurt. Often hurtness is more about our expectation of another's behavior than anything else. We expect a sister in law to behave a certain way, or a boyfriend or a girlfriend to love us in a way we believe they should, but then they behave in a way we either don't understand or cannot accept. We see this as an affront to ourselves, sometimes to our values, but most often to our expectations for their behavior.
Ooops, there goes that self-righteous ball a-rolling!
What to do? The hardest work of all: nothing. Sit still and let the universe take care of itself. Hurt only remains with us if we keep picking at it. A daily practice of zazen along with on-going mindfulness practice can be of great benefit with this.
This is very hard work. It requires something of us: that we sit on our hands (to use on old chess training method) and not snap off moves so quickly. Easy? Hardly. I have been at this a very long time and I still knee-jerk with my mouth on far too many occasions. Still, I am aware immediately as I am doing this. And in that awareness is often the desire to be still and not react. Our practice makes it possible to be present without being so swept away by the floods of feelings and thoughts. And on those increasingly rare times when we are swept away by our anger or hurt, we are able to pull ourselves out more quickly, on the one hand, and experience the suffering we have caused, on the other. These then, become opportunities for personal and social growth.
Now, to take my own advice.
Be well.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Forgiveness

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

A friend asked me about forgiveness. I thought it would be nice to say a few things about it. Yet, this thing we call forgiveness is very tricky as it points to the fact that we, ourselves, are holding on to some pain inflicted on us by another. This causes us to suffer. Sometimes the person we wish to forgive hasn't a clue the he has hurt us in the first place.
So, at first blush, we might think that forgiveness is about absolving someone else and letting them off the hook, in truth it is we who are hooked by our anger and hurt. This is one of those curious little scenarios in life that can actually demonstrate to us just how deeply interconnected (and often clueless) we are.
It is that very interconnectedness that makes forgiveness truly possible. And our cluelessness that makes it possible for us to suffer for so long. When we think of how another person hurt us, then look inside and see how we are being just as hurtful against ourselves, we can see our humanity. Each glimpse into our human condition provides us an opportunity to learn. ..and change, or rather, transform.
The first step in forgiveness, then, is to forgive ourselves for carrying such pain and hurt with us for so long. We may not be ready to do this. The pain of an experience may be very important to us. Sometimes this pain is a marker of our prior state, say our innocence, then we are victimized and our pain recalls not only the victimization, but our state prior to our victimization, as well. We blame the perpetrator for both our victimization and the loss of our identity as an ordinary person. Who really wants to confront change so directly?
So, we desperately hold on to what we thought we were, knowing we are not, and feel great anger toward the person who made all this happen. It is now we who are victimizing ourselves.
When we have had enough of this, we will stop. We stop when we discover that we have worth beyond an experience somewhere in the past. We stop when we realize our present is our choice and our responsibility. We stop when we realize it does no good to continue holding on.
This is a liberating moment.
Be well.

.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Foundation

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Those here seeking wisdom and knowledge are welcome, however, it is important to orient yourself to how this process is understood in Zen Buddhism. Wisdom and knowledge are often thought to be something that exist outside of us, that can be imparted by one person to another. That is a dualistic notion and is incorrect.

Wisdom and knowledge are innate: we all possess them. We practice to see what is already there within us and before us. We practice to eliminate the proscenium that separates the actor from the universe.

So, if you are seeking something from me or others, stop. Seek it from yourself. How? Create a time each day to practice zazen. Practicing zazen regularly is a gate to understanding and realization. Let nothing get in the way of this regular practice. It becomes your spiritual foundation, literally.

Then post your experience. Posting is a process of self examination and awareness. I ask replies be explorations rather than fingers pointing to supposed errors.

Best wishes,

Be well.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Careful!

for Joshua


With palms together,
Good Morning All,

In Zen we practice to see our True Nature. Be careful!

Our True Nature
is the Universe
and the Universe
has nothing
to stand upon.

So, what happens when we confront our Self? See our impermanence, our absolute emptiness? Maybe we say "Eureka!" I think not.

Most ordinary human beings, those Dogen calls mortals, require something to stand on. they require a reference point, something to define themselves against: like form and space in a painting. But with our True Nature, we see these are ever in motion, nothing substantial, everything like the clouds in the sky.

Seeing our True Nature, we step into the world of the Buddhas: immortal where each breath is a manifest opportunity, each touch, the creation of kindness and compassion, each step a walk into infinity.

Be well.


Kindness requires patience. Patience requires generosity. Open your heart to yourself and embrace the universe.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Where's the Beef?

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

As we awaken we say, "This morning I vow with all beings to see the world clearly as it is and to end violence and bring compassion to all beings." In the evening we say, "This evening, as I go to sleep, may all beings rest and be renewed through peace and love."

In this way we open and close our day by placing our attention on our true purpose in life, to nurture and support all beings. It is not that we are instruments of these things, rather, we are these things. Being the instrument of something creates a separation between the thing and the tool, as if they were not exactly the same. Being an instrument of compassion is not the same as being compassion.

We each have work to do through each day for the rest of our lives. The paycheck of this work is immediate. When we open our eyes, there it is. Both work and reward are the exact same thing: a manifestation of our true nature.

Be well.

As zero and one do their dance, infinity happens.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Silence of the Lion

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

The day is unfolding slowly, as Saturdays do. There are clouds in the sky and the air is cool. I am parked under a down comforter with Tripper at my side. My Little Honey is talking to our daughter and getting ready to leave for Knitters Guild. I will be alone with the furboys for the morning.

Whatever will I do?

Setting aside the obvious dog walking, breakfast eating, meditation, and writing, nothing special. This is as it should be. Life lived as one page to the next where our focus is on the page we are reading is best. Other pages are what they are and will turn as they may, but this very page is us.

Pete-kitty sits
like a small lion
staring at my fingers
as they press these keys.
Silence unfolds.

Be well.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Our Morning Star

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Yes, the earth has clearly tilted. Cooler temps, snow in places, and a cloudy sky this morning. We hustle just a little more in the morning and wrap ourselves with layers of clothing. I try not to give in so much to this temptation. Cold can be refreshing. Just as heat can be soothing. Yet, too much of either and we are in trouble.

Today we should recognize the Buddha's achievement. He worked so hard for so many years only to discover in an instant that what he sought he already possessed, as do all of us. The most profound teaching, I suspect, is to stop seeking. This stopping, this deep abiding in silence with self allows for our release of self, paradoxically, and the concomitant discovery that there is no abiding self.

Let us each witness the morning star in the same way.

Be well.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Our Own Authority

With palms together,
Good Morning All,
Someone wrote to ask me to speak more on the notion of walking in one's own authority. Since today is December 7th, the day Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, perhaps this is a good day for such a comment. Brian Victoria wrote a book entitled Zen at War and in it he reveals the behavior of Japanese Zen monks during World War II. Apparently, many were fervent nationalists, anti-Semites, and other such very un-Buddhist things. The question arises, then, how could this be?
First, a monk's vows do not exempt a monk from his or her civic obligations. We should all be good citizens. The question is, what does that mean? My sense is that a good citizen is a buddha. This means a person whose eyes are wide open, who lives in non-dualist terms and can easily move in the relative and absolutes that make our universe.
Walking in one's own authority requires inside information, so to speak. This inside information is a realization of our true nature, our original face, if you will: that face "we" had before "our" parents were born. Such information is always with us, it is a part of us, but we must find it ourselves through our practice.
We could call this face God, if you will, or Buddha Mind, or the Universal, or simply Vast Emptiness. It really doesn't matter what it is called, what matters is that it is both experienced and actualized by us in our lives. When this happens, the precepts become our own manifestations of this realization so that when we are in particular social situations, we know what to do and this doing is our own, as well. Yet, it corresponds precisely and exactly to Buddha Dharma.
This is outside meeting inside and vice-verse: resolving both.
So, when a monk is asked to do something which goes against his or her Buddha nature, he or she must find a skillful way of engaging the request to turn it into a teaching lesson for the universe. This is what it means to "save all beings." The lessons can be myriad.
This said, it is possible, probable even, that religious institutions become corrupt and power-hungry. In Zen, this is also the case. Monks argue over status and Temple politics, shuffling for this advantage or that: the same as any work environment. They can also become servants of the civil government and the mob majority. However, it should not be. If we work the program as is said in other paths, then "letting go of self" and humility are the greatest teachers. So there's the rub, when letting go of self, where does our authority go?
A buddha understands that our authority is never ours, but is an aspect of our True Nature. One who has realized this True Nature manifests it; one who has not, who only aspires to do so, does not. Seeking this authority in a religious structure will never do. In fact, the religious structure becomes a serious hindrance to achieving Clear Mind.
Monks who do bad things are not walking in their own authority and this is their mot serious sin.
Be well.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Appreciate

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

We talk a lot about being present. Yet thoughts of pleasant things take us away as well. Thoughts of quiet beaches or retreats in the mountains or just a walk along river at dusk. One wonders what it is that is so challenging about this very moment in our lives.

Perhaps we do not know how to appreciate what we have and perhaps we are lead to believe by advertisers that what we have is never enough. Our culture is a consumer culture, sadly. Because consumers eat their surroundings rather than participate in them. Surroundings are for our pleasure, our toys are for our amusement, people are to meet our needs: we are the center of the universe.

Being present means being a full participant in life as it is.

My Little Honey has a wonderful habit of finding the value in whatever she has and in whatever she is doing. She has some old yarn, she makes something with it. Everything has its value and she finds real pleasure in each thing. She can giggle at the silliest things. I hear her and look over, and there she is admiring an old piece of cloth, part of a doll, or some little thing she has just knitted...that is to say, created with her own hands.

These are moments of real value. The pictures on the t.v. are just phosphorescent dots on a screen.

Be well

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

What's Your Moment?

With palms together,
Good Morning All,
This morning is different. I was up late last night and fell asleep in the Zendo. My Little Honey slept in the bedroom. My dogs slept in the Zendo with me, as did Pete-kitty. So this morning My Little Honey crawled onto the futon and found a place amid all the little heart beats. Of course, Tripper was very unhappy that he had a rival for my attention. Rather than unfolding, this folded into an awakening experience for me: all hair and wet tongues and heartbeats.
So, I got up and made the coffee, decided I had enough enlightenment and sat down in the living room to clear my head of the fur and hair that can be my life.
Since the coffee is made, My Little Honey has decided she should join me, and all the other heartbeats followed. It is said that wherever we go, there we are.
Life is like that.
No escape.
So, what can we do? We enjoy the moment by shifting gears, as is said today. We let go of our expectations and enjoy the ride as it is. When we consciously do this it is possible to be taught. Drivers never learn, they are too busy driving.
You might say, but how do we ever get anywhere? And I answer, where is there to get? When we achieve something we want something else. We we have something, it gets old and we want something new. When we have some money, we want some more. When there is always somewhere to go, we never arrive.
Yet, to live in the moment does not mean there is no tomorrow or that we cannot plan for, and build toward, a future. It means that in each moment, even if it is a planning moment, we experience it as fully and as completely as possible. To do this requires something of us.
We have to disappear and allow the present to be us.
Be well.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Living and Learning

With palms together,
Good Morning All,
 
Our Rohatsu sesshin was a powerful one. We were completely full and on Sunday, had several people sitting in the kitchen and two in the foyer of the Zen Center.  Soon we will need a larger building, I suppose.
 
A deep bow of gratitude to each of you in attendance!
 
We all sat zazen very well. I must say, though, that our silence was broken late Saturday afternoon when one of the participants,Jeremy, requested the kyosaku and as I went to smack his shoulder I missed, hitting his neck!  As I bowed and apologized, the whole Sangha erupted in laughter...this is what sitting hour after hour will do to you!
 
Sesshin should not be tense. Neither should zazen.  Neither should life.  These are experience.  Experience itself is neutral.  It is what it is. We add to it our various spins.  We like this, we dislike that.  People should be this way, not that way.  And so on. It is this discerning mind that takes us away from Buddha Mind. 
 
Buddha Mind appreciates life as it is: sweet, sour, salty, torrid. Each of these is a pointer, so to speak.  Appreciate and use the pointer, but then move on. So, while we can laugh at the Roshi's mistake, we should not carry it with us. I need to be completely mindful and present with my kyosaku and not assume I know how to use it well.  
 
What do you need?
 
Be well.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Stepping Out

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

This morning my wrist alarm surprised me. I pushed back the down comforter and was greeted with a chill in the air. We have two alternatives, pull the comforters back up or throw them off and Step out into the cool morning air. Our lives, every moment of our lives, is just like that.

We can pull the covers over us and stay warm and comfortable in what we know or we can cast off what we know and enter life with open eyes.

This choice comes to us a million times a day. It is the choice between being automatic and genuine. The choice between patience and impatient, generous or greedy, wise or shallow. The "right" choice is always both the more challenging and the more rewarding.

Yet we should not make this choice on that basis. Rather, we chose because we are buddhas being buddhas.

Be well.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Be a Light

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

A friend writes that I rarely quote sutras in my messages. He also points out that I rarely reply to comments. There is truth is this sorta. If we understand sutras as scripture, he is correct. Scripture is what it is, a finger pointing to something. The danger of scripture study is that we can get to a point where we value the scripture more than what it is pointing to. And what exactly is that? Every scripture is about practice, that is to say, some aspect of living out an awakened life.

Sutra study aids us. It is a corrective lesson. It helps us sit upright, so to speak, but it is not the sitting itself. Sitting we must do. Life must be lived and when lived with open eyes the buddha is realized.

Often my morning messages are replies. Your messages suggest topics. I clarify - or attempt to clarify - with my messages. I write two of these a day. One I post to you on these lists and the other to my blog at Yahoo 360. I try to keep up with the direct correspondence as much as possible, yet life must be lived. Puppies need to be walked, Zen Center needs to be taken care of, and Little Honeys listened to and engaged with. Life is like that.

The lessons of life are our own. They are right there in the lives we live. We only need turn the lamp on them to realize them, as the Buddha himself said in his parinirvana sutra. I will leave you this morning with that: be a light unto yourself.

Be well.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Refuges

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

There were two of us at Zen Center this morning. Michelle and I sat a solid period of zazen, I made pancakes, we ate, then sipped a morning cup of coffee and talked about the Three Refuges. These are the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.

It might surprise you to know these are not always what you think they are. The Buddha is not the person of the Buddha, nor the statue of the Buddha, nor an idea of the Buddha. The Buddha is just being awake. Seeing without distortion, like a mountain in crisp morning air. So, we take refuge is being awake. The Dharma is the teaching, but not really. The Teaching is not the Dharma. Once uttered it is stale. The Dharma is reality just as it is, unvarnished, sweet or stinky, smacking us upside our head. When we see clearly, with open eyes, no preconception, and experience this, this is Dharma. It is the truth of our lives. Sangha is the world that supports us and our practice.

So, forget stone Buddhas, fancy scriptures, and pretty temples. These are not our home. Our home is in our breath just now. Now. Now. Now.

Buddhas and sutras and priests can be hindrances if we see them as something to emulate. These are just pictures of the thing. Be the thing itself. How?

Right now, let your eyes close half way, release your breath, and be present.

How hard is that?

Be well.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Different Sort of Sesshin

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

We are about to leave Memphis for our return home to Las Cruces. I am ready! While I certainly (and deeply) enjoy playing with Grandson Tate and visiting Daughter Sam and Not-Son-in-Law, Pete, five days is enough.

I miss my pups, friends, and Zen Center and look forward to returning to my routine which helps me stay "grounded" as they say. Here in Memphis, I turned off all of my wristwatch alarms: no 5:30 wake-up, 7:30 end of zazen, 1:30 end of zazen, 10:30 end of zazen, just short periods of silence interrupted by long periods of giggles and playtime. This is a wholly different form of sesshin. And like the monks at Antaiji in Japan, I say five days is plenty!

We leave at 3:00 PM Central Time and arrive in El Paso at 6:30 PM Mountain Time. Another hour and a half or so drive and we will be home. I look forward to a day of flying practice.

Be well,

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Knowing What We Know?

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

When we practice zazen, we are just present with ourselves. Self encounters self. Sometimes we argue with each other, sometimes we run from each other, sometimes we watch movies of one, none of this is zazen. But every time we notice that we are doing these things and bring ourselves back to the present moment, we are practicing zazen. Zazen is in the noticing. It is the being, not the becoming.

When we encounter something and act like a human being we ask questions, sometimes out loud and directly, but more often secretly and to ourselves. What's this? Who is this? Where is this? Why is this? And we put these things into a time-line of 'when is this?' All perfectly natural. But all in the mind. Each of these questions take us far away from the experience of the thing we are encountering.

We answer our questions and believe we know something about the thing when in fact we know something about our thoughts about the thing. And there is a dramatic difference. This is why we can say it is a mistake to say, incense becomes ash.

So, the next time you experience something new. Stop at the point of experience. Keep the experience and let the thoughts about it go. This is zazen.

Be well.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Of an Afternoon

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

This morning was a wonder. Tate woke with a serious hunger! Screeching until he had breakfast. The Zoo was too much for him, I guess, and he went to sleep last night hard and fast. At the Zoo earlier in the day, I had walked enough and sat down near the Pandas to finish reading a book I thoughtfully tucked in my shirt.

It was a wonderful experience to sit and witness the families, the excitement of the children, and the sounds of wildlife. Pema Chodron's book on peace in times of war is a very good effort at teaching us to be present in the face of danger. I closed it and sat on the forward edge of my seat outside under some trees.

A man noticed me sitting there and asked if I were meditating. I smiled and said, "I am." He replied that he was "Chillin'" as well, as he sorted the chairs and otherwise cleaned the area. He was Black and a hard worker; I am White and hardly work at all. He had a heavy gold cross around his neck, I had a string of 108 beads running through my fingers. He was Zen in motion, I was Zen in stillness, we both shared the moment together.

Life is like that.

Be well.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Sounds of Life

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Well, we are in Memphis and have filled ourselves with either Turkey or Tofu Turkey depending...and lots of pumpkin pie with tons of whipped cream and cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes: so predictable, yet so delicious.

It is good to be with family, though I wish all of us could be together. In a very real sense, though, we are. With every breath we take we are human beings alive in a world we deeply share with each other. Our thankfulness should not end with yesterday's sundown, but should spread out throughout the universe with our every action.

So, today we take a walk, smell the cool autumn air, and feel each step with very excited baby sounds piercing our ears.

Be well.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Some Little Things

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

There it is, the morning sun rising. My goodness how bright! I sat alone in the Zendo this morning. I actually cherish those times when I am alone there. (Please don't take this to mean you shouldn't come!) It is so still, so quiet, save the chirps of sundry birds outside. In such lovely stillness one can reside, yet we each should know that such moments are but brief respites that assist us to navigate clearly through a day.

In the morning we leave for Memphis. I look forward to seeing Dragon Tate, the grandson. I wish we could see Olivia, our little Florida pumpkin,the littlest granddaughter or Sami, our Teenage grand daughter, and our array of children who seem scattered like so many seeds. Maybe in the months to come.

Life is like that. We open our eyes and there it is. We do what is there for us to do, we float along and let the rest drop away. When we get all caught up in the woulda-shoulda mind trap, we sink. No sinking allowed.

In the meantime we love and that's a very good thing. We love our neighbors and our friends. We love our partners. We love the air we breathe and the food we eat and all the good things that make our lives what they are. Its important to be mindful of these things.

Be well.

Matsuoka

With palms together,
Good Afternoon All,

It is nearly the end of morning. We have been busy around the homestead. Zen Center was a delight this morning and yesterday we had a full house once again! Our Board meeting went well as we reviewed the bi-laws approached one step closer to 501c3 status.

Our Zen Center clearly has grown and matured since we began some 5 or 6 years ago in a small room in my home. We have our own facility, we are offering a full range of zazen, as well as children friendly services. I am personally delighted about the numbers of regular sitters and the group of this forum and its membership. Yet, we are still small and, I hope, homey. Such a good hing.

Today is a very special day. We honor Matsuoka-roshi today. For those of you who do not know, Rev. Dr. Soyu Matsuoka-roshi is my Dharma grandfather. He established several zen Centers in the US in the sixties, seventies, and eighties. Atlanta, Chicago, Long Beach, and through my Teacher, Las Cruces and Cloudcroft. Little is known about him, as he never published a book (although there is one in process). He was born and died in the same month, November. There is a picture of him on our website at http://www.daihoji.org/ as well as http://www.zencenteroflascruces.org/

Without his effort, courage, and willingness to come to America from Sojiji, we would not be gathered here together in person or online. Nine bows to him.

Be well.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Tangles

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

"Not the faults of others, nor what others have done or left undone, but one's own deeds, done and left undone, should one consider." the Buddha

The truth is so hard to take sometimes. We live in a world where it seems we are always judging. Well, I should really speak for myself. I live in a world where I seem to always be judging. In this world is pain and suffering and I realize I am its cause.

If I were t place my sole attention on being the person I know I am, no problem. If I were to look at others as myself, no problem...well, maybe big problem, since I can be pretty hard on myself. But you get the point.

It is so important to take care of one's own business, it is a first step to being upright. Yet so much easier to look somewhere else and pay attention to others.

When we sit zazen we are left with only ourselves. Just us with our breath and our mind and our senses. Yikes! Still, if we have the courage to continue to sit there, we begin to see clearly the work that needs to be done. The ball of yarn begins to unravel of its own accord and there we are, free of the tangles of delusion.

So, we get up off the cushion and do what is there for us to do. All the while letting others do the same.

Be well.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

On Being Outside the Box

With palms together,
Good Evening All,

Is there ever a time when we are ready to live as completely as possible? It would seem we are often living with one foot in the grave, "Oh, don't do that, you'll get hurt!" "Oh, that is just too risky, better not go there!" And so on.

I don't know. I wonder about this sometimes.

One of the reasons we don't live to our full potential is fear, but not so much of getting hurt in the ordinary sense. Rather, this is fear of a different sort; getting hurt in the psychic sense. We are afraid of what people will think of us if we are just ourselves. So we put on, we dress the part, and play roles, never allowing our true selves to emerge.

I remember how liberating it was to find out that even if I make a complete fool of myself, if done honestly, it really didn't matter. People can be hurtful, true. But mostly they are very compassionate and caring human beings. Such liberation is compelling. And I believe people respond best to authentic human beings.

I sometimes laugh a lot. I am also sometimes depressed. I enjoy being with people most of the time. Negative energy and people who seem to be dying before their time are a challenge for me. When I am in their presence, I feel the drain. Yet, I think this is a key practice. To learn to be present in each and every moment and to be open to every being regardless of how I might be feeling at that moment. How else can one be of service? We really don't have the luxury of picking sand choosing our moments to be buddhas

Each of us in a universal being. We each share original mind. Each of us is a particular being. Each of us possess unique qualities. It is up to us to discover and value these things. Being a real person is a necessary first step.

Be well.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Being Real

With palms together,
Good Morning All,
 
This past Wednesday evening we had one of our Zen Center members who lives in El Paso arrive with his daughter. She is a delightful young lady, smart as a whip, and just a joy to practice with.  I invited her to be my assistant and ring the small bell at the appropriate times during the evening.  We say together and then we studied a story of the Buddha together.  She served our tea before the Dharma talk.
 
Having children at the Zen Center is a real delight. Children bring a very special energy, as well as a wonderful perspective, to our practice. I have found that children are often very interested in being present, perhaps because they live their lives that way. We can reinforce this and learn from it ourselves by being in the presence of These great teachers.
 
But first we need to get off our adult high horse.
 
How? Zazen teaches us that all things are our teachers when our self drops away. Being willing to drop away our self importance goes hand in hand. Books such as "The Little Prince" and "The Velveteen Rabbit" are really bodhisattvas who lead us to important realizations.
 
Be well. 
 
 
 
Be well.
 
 
Team Zen:


Rev. Harvey So Daiho Hilbert, Ph.D. 
May All Beings Be Free From Suffering
On the web at:
 


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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Walk Softly

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

My apologies for missing yesterday. I am just a little overwhelmed with Yahoo 360, Zen Center, and buying a new house. Our apartment complex, a beautiful gated community, has been sold and is being converted into condominiums. We have the choice of buying or moving at the end of our lease. So we have been looking about for a house and weighing the pros and cons of purchasing the unit we are in.

Yahoo 360 has been a real ride, as they say. I get a ton of messages, requested to be friends, and the odd assortment of very strange messages like "What kind of crack did you smoke as a kid!" Hmmm. What I am impressed with is the sincere nature of most of the comments and questions. The heartfelt requests for assistance in dealing with life's issues. I have been deeply humbled by these.

So, lately, I am spending much time quietly trying to address the suffering, the questions, and the odd thoughts that this Internet experience seems to be evoking. Our world clearly is getting immediate and intimate. Quick IM conversations with Chinese, Iraqis, Iranians, Thais, Japanese...longer conversations with Westerners seeking some sort of assistance with the challenges of their practice, and the occasional solicitation for romance has kept me quite busy. I am grateful for this opportunity to be of service.

In the end, I am reminded just how similar we all are. Each of us, regardless of country or spiritual path seems to be seeking similar things. We seek happiness. We seek peace. We seek a sense of safety and security. And we seek prosperity. This is common ground. May we each walk upon it softly.

Be well.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Senses

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

There are some sounds that are very comforting. The sound I hear right now is Pepper's breath as he sleeps by my feet. The sound yesterday was the laughter of good friends enjoying a serendipitous meal together. Sounds are a true picture of the nature of things, We cannot hold onto them. And memory is pale in comparison. Yet there they are in our experience. Direct, they lift us up, yet leave us just instantly.

All of the senses are like this.

We suffer when we try to keep them close. We suffer when we value one over another.

So, regardless of the sound, hear it; regardless of the sight, see it. Appreciate the moment.

Be well.

Monday, November 13, 2006

No Chicken Little Here!

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

The sounds of early morning are delightfully few and far between. Stillness. After the dogs go out, they curl up to nap. I sip my coffee and read the morning news. It seems the world always appears to be falling apart. I close that screen and open another.

Our world, in spite of everything, is not falling apart. People care deeply for one another. For every act of violence, there are countless people there to care for those injured. For every disaster, human beings come together to pickup the pieces and rebuild. Billions of us live together, most with scarce resources, and yet each day we demonstrate our true nature as compassionate beings. In truth, the news stories, the pictures of death and destruction, these are the oddities. We must keep that in mind.

As we go through our day today, lets keep our hearts open. Embracing the world is a wonderful way to embrace yourself.

Be well.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Open Societies

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Mt alarm clock, in the form of furry friend, Tripper's tongue, woke me at 5:30 this morning. What does a dog know about weekends? So, I got up and made the coffee. Opened the laptop and began to read the morning mail.

A couple of messages from someone who thought I expelled them from my group went off on me. I had no idea what she was talking about. I rote her back asking her to explain herself. Some other messages from friends who were concerned about the issues I brought up in yesterdays note. I am sitting with those. And a lot of support for sharing my feelings. It is apparently very important that people who are perceived to be religious leaders be real and open with their experience. I believe this is true.

As a therapist, I was struck by the work of a psychologist who wrote a book called the Transparent Self. In this work, he talked about the notion that self-disclosure was essential at getting to the truth in an interview with a patient. Now, to some extent, our society has been riding on the self-disclosure wagon and everyone seems to be playing a game of king on the mountain as regards war stories. But this is not genuine self-disclosure.

Being open mean being willing to receive as well as give. To receive, one must be willing to set aside self and really listen to another. This means listening without processing an answer. It means self-disclosing for the sake of intimacy and closeness and thus is done judiciously and with purpose.

In Zen we self-disclose to acknowledge our realization of deep interconnectedness with each other. We learn that we are all one in the same beings, buddhas seeking to crack out of the shell of delusion.The light that shines forth from the disclosures of our struggles can be heart-warming.

The sharing of self in public or private is directly related in my opinion to the nature of the organization. The more rigid the organization and tighter the hierarchy, the less public disclosure and the more private disclosure (in the form of quiet gossip). The less rigid and more open the organization the higher the level of public disclosure and thus the more open the rancor. In very orthodox institutions there are very strict rules for deportment. Thus our need to disclose is forced underground so to speak. Restricted to small circles, gossip spends its time with coffee spoons. In more liberal and open institutions, roles and rules are more relaxed, everyone is seen as having validity and a voice and, well, there you have it: a room full of experts!

We hope in liberal settings that people will behave themselves. Most of the time they do. Frankly, I vote for open societies regardless, but is does mean we must learn how to be human together.

Be well.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

On Being and Becoming, Sorta

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Most of the time we are not buddhas, but rather, buddha wannabees. We buzz around with our nice thoughts and wonderful words strung together ever so easily, likes colored beads on a string. And then we wash the dishes, watch television, and have an live with our spouses and children.

At Zen Center, we can be the buddhas we think we are, but at home, the clothes come off and a whole other person arises. Is this so?

If we are pretending to be something we imagine to be "Buddhist" then we are not buddhas. On the other hand, if we are annoyed or angry or afraid or lonely, this does not mean we are not "Buddhist" either, and if we are genuinely these things, aware that we are these things, then, in fact we are buddhas.

Buddhas are nothing if not authentic in the moment.

Last night I had occasion to feel tremendous hurt, anger, sorrow, humiliation, and compassion, in that order. We attended a service at the synagogue after having supported a local poet at a reading at a local bookstore and having just returned from the mountains. A small group in attendance. None of the people we typically attend with were there. A long time Temple member was leading the service as the rabbi is on sabbatical. This person used the d'var Torah (sermon time) to comment on hospitality. Good. But then she brought up the divisions in the congregation, the rancor at the annual meeting from months ago, and essentially chastised those "new members" who caused such a hurtful stir. My wife and I were two of those members.

So, I sat in the synagogue and heard what she had to say. I decided that rather than react to my hurt, I should open myself as much as I could to her and her point of view. She was hurt by the conflict in the synagogue and hurt creates a kind of personal fundamentalism, as Pema Chogrin beautifully pointed out. When we are hurt, we close ourselves and begin immediately to mount a counter attack to stop the hurt. We blame the person hurting us for our pain.

What this does is close us off even further and we no longer hear the person, nor do we want to. Instead we either want to fight or flee.

Since getting up and leaving in the middle of a person's talk would be rude and very disrespectful, fleeing was not an option.

This offered me an opportunity to practice. And I witnessed my body tense, my reptilian mind emerge, and duck for cover as I swatted it away with my beads which were getting pretty warm in my fingers. I saw and felt her hurt, her anger, and her sense of righteousness. I saw that it was necessary for her to do this. I hope it helped her. I felt great compassion for his often brittle woman who uses her intelligence and vitriol to defend herself.

We came home directly, My Little Honey did not want to stay for the Oneg (a joyous snack party after the service for fear she would "say" something. It was just as well. In the car I drove in silence and processed much of my feelings. At home I entered my zendo, lit a stick of incense and sat on my cushion until it was ash.

Be well.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Vote!

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Today is the day for us in the United States to decide as a group who will represent us. It is very important that you participate in this election. As we have seen, elections are often won or lost on the basis of voters choosing to come or not come to the polls.

While I cannot endorse a candidate or a party, I can ask you to vote in a way that clearly reflects our values as followers of the Buddha Way. So, in the voting booth, vote as the buddha you are.

Be well.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Being Yourself

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

There is a wonderful sun in the sky already here in New Mexico. The sky is clear and it is a nice 66 degrees F. I just returned from morning Zazen. We had a nice turnout for morning and I made us all pancakes and eggs with coffee. It was really nice sitting at the table together.

We talked about the precepts this morning and I tried to stress that the precepts are not rules. Rules are external, they are brittle, they are decidedly unBuddhist. The Buddha taught that we are all already completely enlightened beings, meaning that the precepts are actually fluid doorways to a true expression of our buddhanature. When we drop away the clutter and see directly with a clear mind, there is no separation between us and the precepts. We are the precepts.

Today, please be the buddha you are.

Be well.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

May We Have Ears to Listen

With palms together,
Good Morning All,
 
Yesterday, three of my friends worked the polls. My Little Honey and I did this for a couple of years in Mayhill, near our Refuge. It is a long day, believe me, but so rewarding.  I want to take a moment and thank Eve, Allen, and Lou for their volunteerism. You each are a blessing to our community.
 
As the day passed into night, I watched the election off and on. It is an amazing thing this democratic process. The "fair and balanced" conservative news network could not seem to get a handle on the immensity of the tidal wave for change, and the original 24 hour news network could barely control itself. Clearly the people of the United states have sent a message in no uncertain terms to our President.
 
Let us hope he has ears to listen.
 
Appropos to this I read that new text on the Buddha and the Terrorist yesterday. We could learn much from this story. A terrorist and mass murderer from a low caste meets the Buddha, is pacified, becomes enlightened, and is forgiven. The terrorist goes on to become a monk and instrument of compassion.  This story is testimony to the power of compassion and skillful means. I highly recommend this book to you.
 
 
 
 
Be well.


Rev. Harvey So Daiho Hilbert, Ph.D. 
May All Beings Be Free From Suffering
On the web at:
 


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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Vote!

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Today is the day for us in the United States to decide as a group who will represent us. It is very important that you participate in this election. As we have seen, elections are often won or lost on the basis of voters choosing to come or not come to the polls.

While I cannot endorse a candidate or a party, I can ask you to vote in a way that clearly reflects our values as followers of the Buddha Way. So, in the voting booth, vote as the buddha you are.

Be well.

Patience

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

This morning there wee two of us for zazen, faithful Zento and myself. After we sat, Zento told me his girlfriend would be joining us for breakfast. I made the coffee as he prepared the pancake batter. I then sliced a breakfast cake My Little Honey baked for us. We waited. Girlfriend didn't arrive. Zento called her and she said she would be right here. Zento paced a bit. Finally she arrived, but declined breakfast and said she need gasoline. Zento drove her to get gasoline. i went ahead and made my breakfast. By the time he returned, I was just washing my dish. I bid him good day and left for the grocery. Pepper and Tripper were in dire need of treats.

At the grocery store, I got into a checkout line with only one person ahead of me. The cashier rung up her small purchase, but the amount was wrong according to the customer who had an ad saying what the sale prices were. While they tried to straighten things out, the customer kept saying, "I hate people like me!"

The people behind us went to another register.

After a few minutes, the cashier asked me to go to another register as well. So, I got in line behind the people whom just a few minutes ago I was in front of. And in a few minutes, I was walking to my car with a small bag of dog food and a large box of treats.

It is important to know that not a single person was upset except for the lady who perceived herself to be a hindrance to others. This sort of self talk almost always gets us into emotional trouble.

I am sure that if this were a big city grocery store, the scene might have been different, but then, maybe not. In any event, patience is a wonderful thing.

Be well.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Benefits

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

It is a wonderful thing to be offered the opportunity to practice zazen. In this practice we are able to clarify the mind, experience directly, and behave with autheniticity. All from the simple practice of stilling oneself on a cushion facing a wall.

Yesterday's zazenkai at Zen Center was just such an experience. We had nerly a full house in the morning and, although some had to leave after oryoki lunch, others arrived. We practiced in silence and had a hour's samu to clean the Zen Center as meditative release from the cushion.

Today I return to Zen Center for our morning service. I return with fresh eyes and a real sense of deep appreciation for Sangha and this practice.

Please join me.





Be well.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Peaches and Cream; Rocks and Nails

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Today is a good day to spend in meditation. Or in mindfulness. As my finger touches each key, I am aware that each finger is touching a key. I am aware of the muscle movement in my forearm as my fingers extend and contract, aware of the thoughts arising and falling, being recorded on the electronic page of this computer soon to be presented to you.

When we are mindful, we are aware of the things themselves, but also aware that these things come and go. On the one hand we say they are ours, like "my thoughts" but on the other, we notice that thoughts simply are thoughts and they arise and they fall away. A notion of ownership, in a sense, becomes meaningless. In another sense they are quite meaningful, as they originate from our brain, and our brain originates from its connections with all of the other subsystems created by our genetics, even these are connected and originate through interactions with other systems. When we are mindful we are aware that when we eat, we eat ourselves. We we touch our partners or a stranger, we touch ourselves. And so we do so with care.

This is a difficult practice and though I try, I often fail at achieving it. The world seems to exist outside of us and can easily crash in bursting this little Buddha Bubble I've just created. Or has it? You know, stress is just another feeling. Loss, love, anger, just feelings. They roll toward us like ocean waves. sometimes we resist them, sometimes we embrace them, sometimes we just let go and go with their flow.

Where is it written that everything should be peaches and cream and that we should be as smooth as the cream flowing over the peaches? Aware of the peaches, I am also aware of the rocks and the nails, and the sting of angry, hurtful words.

Our practice is to take this awareness and use it.

Be well.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Zazenkai

With palms together,
Good Morning All,
 
Tomorrow we will practice zazen throughout the day.  It is Zazenkai day at Zen Center.  I look forward to this opportunity to practice with you.  If you are not within distance of Zen Center or are otherwise occupied with matters of consequence, please practice mindfulness through your day.
 
Each day the sun comes up, we are offered the opportunity to become a buddha. Yet these days are numbered.  It is up to you not to waste your time.
 
This means in each act, each breath, of each moment, we are to make ourselves aware of each act, each breath, and each moment.  This is attention.  It requires practice. When we practice all things change, they come alive.  The colors are brighter, the textures are more vibrant, because our senses are keener. We use our attention to open ourselves to the universe.
 
This is a very good thing. 
 
 
 
Team Zen:


Rev. Harvey So Daiho Hilbert, Ph.D. 
May All Beings Be Free From Suffering
On the web at:
 


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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Our Teachers

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Through the smallest things in our life do we create ourselves. The way we touch something, the way we treat our friends, strangers, the cashier in the grocery store. Each point of contact with the world around us is a manifestation of our realization. Want to be a buddha, be a Buddha. It is really that simple.

This requires a willingness to be thoughtful and mindful. It also requires a willingness to surrender our ego and to see our Teacher in everything from the highest to the lowest, because in truth, there is no highest, no lowest, and every single thing is buddha.

This is so challenging in a busy world. We feel we must multitask and thus, by definition, live mindlessly on a sort of contemporary auto-pilot. such a life leads to callous disregard for what is before us. Things, people, animals become means to ends. We do not have the time to see them for the Teachers they are.

I invite you each to stop. Create a small amount of time in your busy lives to be still. Practice zazen.


Be well.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Just Sitting

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Zazen was good this morning. It is always good to sit still and become yourself. Someone wrote to me and asked what to do in the "sadness phase" of meditation. I am uncertain as to what she meant, but I suspect when she is quiet, sadness emerges from the shadows.

One of the most challenging aspects of zazen is just this. When we sit quietly in stillness, all of our typical distractions are taken away from us. Movement, chewing gum, smoking, drinking, eating, talking, everything is just gone. These things provide cover for the other things that haunt us. So when they are not there, no cover, and bam! There they are, those pesky feelings or thoughts or memories. And we are there to witness them.

OK. So, what's the problem? They are just thoughts, just feelings, just memories. They have no power of their own. They are chimera. It is when we take them and build on them and wish they weren't there or were there more often or whatever that we begin to go crazy.

Zazen is simply about experience. We do not judge the experience. We do not move from it or to it. We just experience. We learn from this experience over time that everything has a life of its own so to speak. Things rise and things fall, just as our breath comes and goes. When we are with the coming and going, no problem; when we resist it, big problem.

As for me, I am just a simple person on a cushion who enjoys being still. Then again, maybe not.


Be well.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Living

With palms together,
Good Morning All,
 
Mindful living is tiresome. It takes work and exposes us to pain. Most of us cannot live this way and take something.  We take a drink, or a hit on a funny looking cigarette, or a cigarette itself.  Others, wonder with our bodies, lusting after this delight or that. Some of us hide in our thoughts. Still others fall deeply in love with ourselves and spend hours preening. It all comes to the same thing, increased suffering.
 
While mindful living takes constant effort and attention, it is the only way to truly appreciate our lives. Exposed to pain? So what else is new, we suffer pain, just as we suffer joy. Wanting one to stay and the other to flee is pointless: they both come and go like waves on the surface of a pond. Change your relationship to the waves, regardless of what we call them, and they disappear as waves.  
 
Takes effort?  Of course. Takes attention?  Yeppers. So what else do you have to do with your life but live it?
 
Be well.
 
 


Rev. Harvey So Daiho Hilbert, Ph.D. 
May All Beings Be Free From Suffering
On the web at:
 


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Monday, October 30, 2006

Appearances

With palms together,
Good Evening All,

Please accept my apologies for such a late message. Today was a very nice day. The sun was bright and the sky, clear. The air was crisp in the morning; warmed in the afternoon, and chilled again this evening. I now sit in my zendo with my pups sleeping nearby. The incense is burning and my small candle is lit. Shortly I will sit down on my zafu and begin my practice.

A reader, Jeff, posted a note on one of my blogs. He cited two postings that seemed to contradict each other:

"If you need to believe in something go somewhere else. Zen is not about belief, if fact it is anti-belief." - posted by So Daiho Hilbert on Oct 29 2006

"As a religious or philosophical person, we must take our belief, faith, our practices, if they are authentic, out into the world. We must stand for the good against evil. Good and evil are not amorphous concepts. They are practical and political realities.- posted by So Daiho Hilbert on Jun 30 2006

I am deeply flattered by this posting as it clearly suggests Jeff is a serious student who is paying attention to my blatherings. As in all things, Zen or otherwise, two sides of any coin never touch but are deeply connected. I say on one hand, belief is an obstacle, and on the other hand suggest people of principle are believers. I believe wholeheartedly that both are true.

A believer has no need of a light, believing he already possesses the truth. Yet, in truth, only when we turn the light of day toward something does the thing itself become clear.


We must have faith in our practice, in what he Buddha has taught us, and our experience confirms, and at the same time, remain skeptical not only other people's views, but of our senses and our perceptions, as well. When we look deeply into our own nature and see what is there, there is nothing to fear and nothing to stand against. As Uchiyama-roshi says, we must "open the hand of thought," to which I add, all of life unfolds.

Be well.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Freedom

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

If you need to believe in something go somewhere else. Zen is not about belief, if fact it is anti-belief. Zen is an experiential thing, call it a practice or a philosophy, or a religion if you will, it is fundamentally an orientation in action.

Beliefs are a hindrance to our experience because, like pillows on our bed, they create a soft comfort zone for our minds to rest. Resting gets us only resting. Moreover, we all too often mistake our "belief" for the thing itself, that thing being an awakened life.

What does it mean then, to live an awakened life?

The cat purrs. The dog runs. I pour coffee. My heart-mind hurts. I love my wife. We make breakfast. Get it?

An awakened life is right in front of your nose.

When we live in the promise or thought of tomorrow, whether it be alive or dead in heaven or Nirvana, we are already in hell. Hell is the striving for something we already possess not being aware that we possess it. So, like the fingers in the Chinese puzzle, relax your grasp and you are free.

Be well.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Stumbling Toward Enlightenment

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

With cooler air comes warmer clothes. And often a quicker pace. As a result of my paralysis, I stumble alot, especially if I try to go faster, and even worse if holding anything at all, even something like the mail. Over the years I have developed a sort of love/hate relationship with my disability. On the one hand it is a serious pain in the you know what. On the other hand, it is a valuable and ever present teacher.

Life is like that.

So when I stumble, I mutter something to myself, and depending, it might be addressing that first hand, or that second hand. In either case, I slow done a bit and place my attention on placing my foot, picking up my foot, and the swing of my arms. I also quickly readjust my thinking.

In many ways I am blessed for living the life I have. I think we all are. Each of us lives. It is our special blessing to appreciate our lives as they are.

Be well.

Friday, October 27, 2006

A Blog of Interest, Hmmm

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

My Yahoo360 Blog is being featured this month by Yahoo as one of their interesting blogs. Goodness, my mailbox was very full with comments, requests for connection, and congratulations. I am practicing several of those pesky paramitas just now.

The air has definitely taken a turn for the colder side of things. It feels good. I laundered my sweatshirts and have located my sweaters. In the desert southwest we need little more than than. My robes are warm and I enjoy them in the Zendo.

A shaved head does require a hat. I prefer those knitted sock thingies, sort of like a mitten for the brain. My Little Honey often thinks I look ridiculous. I think I'm cool...well, warm, actually.

Be well.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Life Is Like That

With palms together,
Good Morning All,


The challenge of serene reflection meditation is rather steep. On the surface it appears very easy, just sit still for awhile. Yet, when we make the choice to stop our movement, things seem to happen: an old pain surfaces, an itch develops, an awful thought arises...or a very pleasant one. So just sitting there itself becomes a serious obstacle to what we want, namely, to move.

I recommend not moving.

Serene reflection meditation is not relaxation, nor is it a means of finding bliss. It is not therapeutic and it is not easy. It is hard work requiring your constant attention.

Life is like that.

When we practice living we tend to think of it as easy. Oh, if I were twenty one, no problem! If only I had a better job! Or a college degree! Or a beautiful spouse! Or that nice new car being advertised! Life would be perfect. Then we get these things.

Yes, life is like that.

It requires our constant attention.

Be well.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Of Our Own Making

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Of Our Own Making

When the sky is so beautiful
I fail to see the gentle grass.

Big Mind is so seductive.
I want to smack it.

That grass is home to snakes,
Yet it frames the sky.

Little Mind is so ordinary.
I want to puff it up.


Every picture needs a frame,
Every frame, a picture.

I am a metronome:
both artist and audience.

___

Be well.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Meaning

With palms together,
Good Morning All,


Meaning

Waking this morning
to a gentle rain against the window
The sound was nourishing.

Inside, under the cover of the patchwork quilt my wife made,
safe and cozy,
able to perceive the sound of the rain.

Outside, a different matter altogether.
No safety, no warmth.
Just cold wet water.

The rain is the same.

Be well.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Oh, Emotion!

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

When we are afraid and are willing to remain in the fear we can learn. It is the same with anger, joy and sadness. Our feelings can be understood as gates which open to our heart-mind. Care must be taken, but it is best if the gates remain open.

When I am afraid, I tend to seek defenses. Of course, it's also a good idea to turn on the light! And often, once the light is on, there is no longer anything there to fear. So, fear is often about not-knowing. If I am afraid and do not turn on a light to look at what is there, I am likely to built a fortress around me with attitude, feelings, and words, that are enough to scare the bejezzus out of an elephant. Much simpler to turn on a light. Simpler, but all too often, more challenging.

What is it we are so afraid of? Our unwillingness to be vulnerable speaks volumes about us, doesn't it? In the end, what will happen will happen...or already has...not-knowing and staying in a fortress in the dark will not help for long.

Turning in the light means being willing to be still with yourself in the midst of whatever is happening around you or within you. When we loose his stillness and succumb to the waves, we only need turn our attention to our breath and the experience of the moment, be it anger, fear, sadness, or joy. These feelings are not lethal, they are feelings, they will always fade away.

Yet, as a group we are woefully inadequate at dealing with them when they are there. Even our emotional vocabulary is poverty stricken. And without a word, we cannot create a sense of mastery. Its as if the parts are just 'out there' buffeting us about the head and shoulders. We say we 'hate' this when we mean we don't like it. We feel 'enraged' when we actually feel annoyed. We are emotional hyper boles.

This tendency is very dangerous as feeling are the drivers of behavior.Too few of us learn how to push in the clutch. And we are off!

Zazen is an excellent practice for learning about the clutch. I recommend it.

Be well.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

On Being a Duck and Other Matters of Consequence

With palms together,
Good Afternoon All,

There are always moments when we are not ourselves. Lately, I have been experiencing many such moments. My practice is good and it is steady. Still, the ordinary breeze that provides movement for my life has sometimes become a tornado.

Recently we have decided to sell our mountain Refuge. We have talked about moving to Memphis. Lots of serious and radical changes seem to be setting off cascades of feelings. Uncertainty, loss, all those yucky sorts of things burble around.

During such times I sense it is important to be many things at once: open, calm, flexible, and yet centered. Of course this isn't always possible and sometimes I feel somewhat hypocritical when I flame up and get angry, sullen or withdrawn.

I think, "I should be able to handle this!" All the while festering inside, my duck rocking around on choppy seas.

In this stage of my life it is so important that I have family: my wife, my children and grandchildren. I need a home. Yet life isn't really like that, is it? Life is fluid. Evolving, undulating, washing up here, fading out there. What's a good duck to do?

We could say, "float". And I suppose this is the best answer, yet it clearly is lacking, since direction always seems important. Even old Zen Masters like Dogen suggest this. In his Tenzo Kyokun, he says we should prepare tomorrow's meal this evening, but while doing so, we should be completely present.

So, here it is. I have no idea. My present is, my tomorrow may be something else again. Uncertainty seems to be my foundation.

All we can do is the best we can in each moment we are awake.

Be well.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Relative Certainty

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Zen always has a person by the hair, short or otherwise, and yanks them about. Everything is relative to everything else, form has no substance, everything is in flux, we teach; yet 'no substance' takes form, in the flux there is some 'thing' and there is an absolute. In Zen, context and method are everything.

To say something, anything, is always incorrect because words are pale pictures of actual experience. We say behavior reveals our understanding. Much like a flower reveals the soil.

People can catch themselves on hooks of their own making. Waving in the wind as a fish flopping about out of water, we create much ado with our words. And so our great ancestors often cite: silence is thunder.

On the other hand, words are one of the major conveyances of our thoughts and feelings. Silence may speak volumes but is always open to complete misunderstanding. Of course a true Master could care less and would only see this misadventure as a teaching opportunity.

Care should always be taken with our speech and we should never be so certain about the truth we think we possess. Sometimes silence is thunder, sometimes its just an invitation. When we understand form is emptiness we should immediately understand emptiness is form. The relative only makes sense in the backdrop of an absolute.

Be well.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Picky, picky, picky

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

This morning at Zen Center I was accompanied by one other: faithful Zen To. We sat together and were witness to wonderful birdsong. The Zen Center was chilly. It is cool. And after our incense offering I made pancakes and eggs with hot coffee.

My griddle was a tad too hot and I forgot to put some oil under the eggs, but other than that, the food was perfect.

In Zen we have a saying that we should accept what is offered. Of course, we are not to take what is not offered either. Both of these suggest we set ourselves, desires, tastes, and other discrimination's aside.

So when the pancakes are a bit dark and hard and the eggs aren't exactly over medium, well, we eat and enjoy and thank the many lives and hands that brought us the food.

I struggle with this on occasion, picky eater that I am. I don't want a lot of fat and sugar in my diet. With so many people starving to death in our world, how can I be so picky? On the other hand, I prefer vegetables and fruits, love nuts and cheese, and eat cherry tomatoes like candy. Still, I rarely make demands on wait staff, complain about my food (except to My Little Honey), and otherwise allow my feelings to rule my life.

Please consider making a generous offering to your local food pantry today. And in the process, remind yourself there are millions of others who cannot afford to pick and choose.

Be well.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Humanity in the Balance

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Last evening instead of zazen, I attended a screening of Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth." Please do yourself a favor and click on the link below to this film's website. Clearly we are facing some serious problems environmentally. No amount of partisan bickering or special interest crap will save us from what the earth itself will do to us if we do not become wiser.

This was my second time through this film. I was struck with Mr. Gore's humanity. I was taken once again with his ability to set out the facts, undeniable facts, regarding our climate change. I was reminded, childishly I suppose, of the beginning scenes of Superman when Superman's father is trying to convince his government that there is an impending crisis.

Then the thought struck me like a thunderclap: its futile. Mr. Gore named his first book, "Earth in the Balance." I have a copy of it. But I think it is misstated. More accurate would be, "Humanity in the Balance." The earth isn't going anywhere and as the film powerfully points out, has its own natural ways of correcting things.We keep thinking in human terms. The earth will have its way and regardless of how special we think we are, it will recover its balance and that it that. The earth measures its time in millenia. A few hundred thousand years, waves and waves of change, and everything is back on track, sans humanity.

So, maybe that Christian text, Revelations, is on target, perhaps we will end in flames, the flames of a global warming of our own making.

http://www.climatecrisis.net/

Be well.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Cease Doing Evil

With palms together,
Good Morning All,


The first of the Three Pure Precepts is "Cease doing evil." Not so simple in today's world. What, after all, is evil? Evil conjures up all sorts of things, the least of which is Halloween masks or Tales From the Crypt. Evil is something we too often see as very specific. War. Violence. Cruelty. Evil has a face we believe and more, a face we are all apt to both see and agree upon.

I'm not so sure. I suspect the true face of evil is much more subtle and difficult to see.

Evil causes harm, it erodes life, kills, causes us to suffer. But, then, so does good. Choosing even in the affirmative always negates something. Perhaps it isn't the actual choice so much as choice itself? To choose one person over another for a transplant. One country over another for our aid. One battle instead of another. Or not to fight at all. So what is evil? That which causes harm? Everyday we cause harm. Is it a matter of scale? Or intent? Or consequence?

Is it enough to be aware? Enough to translate that awareness into some sort of action?

I don't know.

I think my questions are important, terribly important. I think we do not think about them nearly enough and should talk about them often. We certainly don't pay much attention to them as we live out our daily lives. But, on the other hand, that's why we practice zazen, isn't it? To raise our level of awareness? To get mind, body, and environment in sync and on the same page?

I hope so.

I really do.

Be well.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

What It Is

With palms together,
Good Morning All,
 
When we truly understand everything is relative to everything, then we see nothing is anything more or less than anything else.  And when we stand on a single point, everything is relative to it. Where do we stand?
 
I prefer not to. But, unlike that fictional schrivener, Bartleby, I will be what is there to do.
 
Its taken a long time to get to this place. I highly recommend it. The mountains are what they are; the rivers and, in my case, the desert, is what it is.  And then it is not. Being comfortable with the flow of process is key to our survival and ability to see clearly. Those looking for solid ground, even for an instant are consumed by the rivers that run through them.
 
Be well.


Rev. Harvey So Daiho Hilbert, Ph.D. 
May All Beings Be Free From Suffering
On the web at:
 


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Monday, October 16, 2006

Sangha

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Sangha, the last of the Three Treasures, is most likely the most challenging for us in the United States. Not only are we an ego-centric and ethnocentric lot, but we have so little sense of real community. If we sit zazen and the self does, indeed, fall away, what do we have to support us? Our Lexus? Our salary? Our favorite television show?

We are not a people that puts ourselves out for the sake of the group. In fact, I suspect, we compete with and against the group in order to gain advantage in our hierarchical position within the group. Oh my.

And so, what is Sangha?

Typically we think of Sangha as a "community" of like minded individuals who have gathered together for mutual support in their practice. In olden times it was a gathering of monks. Today, its about anyone even to the vastness of all sentient beings. Way too large for me, that is. I like to know my group. I like to see them, smell them, touch them. I like to know they are human beings. That they eat, fart, and make mistakes. I like to know that they are willing to grow, to suck it up, to change. Its important that they be present when I am in need, and I am present when they are in need. Yet this cannot happen when we do not share.

Is it so challenging to unzip and step out of the jackets of our everyday existence? Is it so difficult to be known? To be vulnerable?

I suppose today it is and thus the challenge of Sangha. To take refuge in this treasure is one of the most difficult as it requires a level of trust that we don't ordinarily allow ourselves to have. Sometimes it will be abused. Sometimes there will be no one there to catch us as we fall and we will strike the floor. This should not matter. We are what we choose to be, regardless of the behavior of others.

To make Sangha work we must be Sangha from the inside out.

Consider this when you engage with someone or not engage with someone. In the end it is only your heart that matters, knowing that your heart is the heart of being.

Be well.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The So What Practice of Zen

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

We have all heard the phrase, "no time like the present." In Zen this is considered a daily mantra. Past and future are creations of mind. Yet we must be careful not to make the present moment a creation as well.

We live in the present by living directly, mindfully, and without the craziness that comes with discrimination. Here in this moment, there are plastic keys. Fingers. Electricity. Light. Yet, as soon as I name these, they are not it at all. Now they are my language applied to the phenomenon. What is light before we call it light? What is plastic, finger? before the two meet?

Who cares.

When the light is on, appreciate it. When it is time to write, write; time to clean, clean. This is the "so what" practice of Zen.

Living in the past, we are dead. Living in the future, not yet born. The present is not a theory. It is what it is: appreciate it.

Be well.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Religious Life

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

This morning I woke to a gentle rain. How nice to hear the tender sound of raindrops. My Little Honey is already out the door. She and friend Deana are attending some yarn or knitting event. They hope to sell buttons they have made. So, I am home alone on a Saturday morning. A day of rest. No Zen Center. Just myself and the universe. Well, there is Tripper, who tries to eat Pete-kitty, who will have none of it, and of course, Pepper who just watches all the fuss.

I must say I do enjoy this stage of my life, enjoying such moments as this. Zazen has taught my body/mind to accept the moment without very much conflict. Conflicts that do arise, are settled quickly because they are there to be resolved. Arguments are less hostile, more pliable, and end quickly.

This is being upright. A duck on water, choppy or still, is a duck on water.

The rain is increasing its tempo. We have gone from waltz to four-step. Perhaps we will be witness to a tango. Its just rain. I sit under the canopy of my apartment, participant-witness to it all.

This is religious life.

Be well.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Being Good

With palms together,
Good Afternoon All,

We live to be good people. Yet sometimes, I think we slip into just living, not even just living, but a sort of existing that includes going through the motions of eating, talking, working, sleeping, with no attention on what each moment of being is for us.

How do we live to be good people? What is required of us? Do we need to be superheroes? Heroes? Do we need to be Great Buddhas? Jesus? Moses? The Prophet?

When we walk along the sidewalk, we notice an ant and step over the ant. When we notice there is no toilet paper on the roll, we replace the toilet paper. If someone is angry with us, we listen. If someone needs us, we are there. These are nothing really special, nothing extraordinary, yet so often we are so asleep that we step on the ant, leave the bathroom, blow off someones feelings, and turn on the TV. Modern life has many exits.

Being present has only one: zazen. Zazen is the practice of being present. Attention to the world within us and without us: we are neither engaged nor disengaged. Whatever is there is there and we are with it 100%. Our body is upright; our mind is upright; our heart is open. Practice.

Be well.