Zen 101

Sunday, July 30, 2006

And Then There Were None.

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Killing is wrong. Enough already. All of the reasons are just words in the wind. Palestine this, Israel that. Men, women, and children die, suffer greatly, and their deaths and suffering become the cause of the next round of bombs and rockets.

We must be better than this. We must be smarter than this. We must have enough courage to live in peace.

Such a challenge, it seems. Forgiveness and compassion for our enemies is so difficult. Perhaps it is really beyond our capabilities. We always done it this way. You throw something at me, I throw something at you. You take this, I take that. Its only human nature, right?

And so the whole world is dead and no one is left to cry for us. In our graves we will be happy that we were avenged.

How childish.

To live is peace is to live in courage. To live in love is to live in understanding. To live in suffering is to live in compassion. These are the resources we must develop and nurture. These must be our foundation.

Be well.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

They Shoot Jews, Don't They?

With palms together,
Good Morning all,

Hate is a powerful poison. It fills us with such negative energy. It demands harmful action and evil behavior. The Buddha said that the antidote to hate was love. Only love will stop hate, yet loving those who would do us harm is so difficult.

Yesterday I had occasion to read several web logs from Muslims. The common theme seemed to be that Jews were not human. Then I read about the man who walked into a Jewish Federation Building, claimed he was a Muslim and shot six people including women.

Sometimes when confronted with such things, I remain silent. I take in the pain of the situation and let it sit with me. Rivers of feeling rush by. Irrational thoughts. Hurtful feelings. I remain silent.

In this silence I begin to understand that point of view is everything. Those who are oppressed, hungry, and powerless will hate those whom they perceive to be well-fed, powerful, and rich. No amount of sharing, goodwill gestures, or outreach will resolve such deep and powerful feelings.

In such cases and in such moments, my prayers must be directed toward myself. Recognizing my anger, I can recognize theirs. Recognizing my hate, I can recognize theirs. Recognizing my suffering, I can recognize theirs. It is through this recognition, that our humanity is actualized. For it is true that we can all hate, then it is equally true that we can all love. If it is true that we can all be anger, then it is equally true that we can all be peace.

So, we begin within ourselves and step outside. Honor your neighbor, love your enemy, and desire peace.

Be well.

Friday, July 28, 2006

A Six Year Old Roshi

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Yesterday through much of the afternoon, I was six years old. I played with a young friend in the pool, we ran in a circle in the courtyard, we played on the floor of the apartment while the adults looked on. We are never too old to see with a child's eye. Our imagination is still a very powerful tool.

I was a Mighty Morphin' Shark, a Bubble Blowin' Jellyfish, and a Floating Log within minutes. And when my little friend had to go home, I became a husband and grandfather again.

These are but roles we play, limited only by our willingness to be ourselves. We can too often allow our limits to encrust us in tradition; age us before our time.

When that happens, go find a six year old to play with.

Be well.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Three Treasures

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

This morning I would like to talk a bit about the Three Refuges: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. When we "take refuge" in these three treasures we are not going anywhere. Its not like we are entering a cave or a fortress, secluding ourselves from the rest of the universe. These Three Treasures are living and breathing aspects of ourselves.

Each of us is a Buddha,and in a larger sense, the entire universe is Buddha. It is buddha-nature. Where is there to go that buddha-nature is not? The Buddha himself was only a representation of this, an embodiment, if you will, of us all. Simply a man who through his practice released himself from delusion, freed himself from hatred, and was the pure _expression of compassion. When we take refuge in this, we vow to be this.

Each of us is Dharma, and in a larger sense, the entire universe is Dharma. Dharma is the how and the what of everything. When we put this into words, it becomes a teaching, written down it is a scripture. Even in falsehood truth resides.

Each of us is Sangha. Life is not divisible. Categories of life are mental constructions that destroy the wetness of process. All of life is Sangha at various stages of awakening. When we enter the Sangha, we open our eyes to this intimate truth.

Vowing to become one with these is really a recognition that this oneness already exists. In the vow you become a complete expression of this unity.

Be well.

Light and Dark

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

As the sun rises, its light illuminates our atmosphere creating our sky and hiding the stars beyond. Therefore, we can say that sometimes the light of day is a hindrance. Truth does not depend on light, it is in itself. Do not be deceived by the light, nor confused by the darkness. Light and dark are but two views of the same reality.

Life requires an open heart and deep faith. Practice being present with both.

Be well.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Our Mindfull Bell

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

This morning I felt rushed. I woke late. Without panic, though, I quickly and mindfully got myself to the Zen Center for our morning Zazen.There were three of us this morning and it was delightful to light the candle and offer incense. Reciting the Great Heart of Wisdom Sutra, the words rang like deep bells in my heart ad mind. We sat quietly for a thirty minute period.

At home, I sat down to write to you and Tripper laid down beside me. He is there now, head on my left hand, breathing gently and slowly, completely relaxed. What a warm and wonderful feeling.

In our lives we perceive ourselves moving from place to place, like a boat along a shore. In truth nothing is moving. We are always right where we are. Being awake to this is the real joy of our practice.

We wake to this present moment practice by paying attention to our own bell of mindfulness as it sounds with each beat in our chests.

Be well.

The Middle Way

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

In all things we should live in the middle. Extremes are a serious problem for both religious and secular life, as if the two can really be separated. Cutting off the heads of our enemies, burning a cross in the front of a home, bombing a church or mosque, blowing up centuries old Buddha statues are not the acts of a spiritually based people, but rather the acts of bigots who are essentially spiritual vampires. They live off the life of others.

The Middle Way is neither black nor white. It is not Buddhist, not Christian, not Jewish, not Muslim, not Hindu, not Wicca...it is a way. We practice the Middle way by serene reflection. Allow things to rise and fall away, Doing what is before us to do. Adding as little as possible of ourselves to the mix, we enjoy the moment for what it is.

Be well.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Aggression

With palms Together,
Good Day All,

Aggression will get us no where but to the fires of hell. Those who fire the first shot, those who fire the last shot, all will be brothers and sisters there. In times of great pain and suffering we must commit ourselves to great peace and compassion.

Arriving at such a place is a whole other matter.

Along the path of peace and compassion come attempts to stir us. Threats to our well-being, arguement, rumor, gossip, people taking advantage of our generosity or our compassion, all of these are serious challenges. Yet, we persist.

We persist because we know that our peace and our compassion are not relative, but absolute. They are our true nature. Cultivate this nature. Nurture it. Embrace it.

Be well.

Freedom

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

May all beings be free from suffering.

I repeat this short prayer every time I put my palms together in gassho. It is attached to each email post. Like the Tibetan prayer wheel, it is launched by my breath and my touch into the universe.

I recognize that this being, "I", am a suffering being, with all suffering beings. In truth we are one being completely. So to free one being, frees all beings, just as my behavior defines a set of possibilities for all other human beings, and their behavior, mine. There were great and fundamental truth in the basic statements of the existentialists.

Just so, it is not enough to say, we must do. In the doing we are being, never becoming.We are what we do.

So, this morning "do" love, "do" peace, "do" complete oneness.

These things then become realities for us all.

Be well.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Take a Bite!

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

If we keep a piece of fruit too long without enjoying it, it becomes unenjoyable. Nothing can be saved for very long: the universal processes, revealing the truth of impermanence, cannot be stopped. Yet we try. My, do we try.

Trying to stop change is like refusing the Universal. Here comes the flood, let's stop it! Right!

If we are "lucky" or willing to work hard, we might slow it down, yet in the process, it is interesting to note, we lose touch with that which we are now because our attention is directed toward keeping change from happening.

Enjoy this moment, as it is. If you are exercising, you are enjoying your exercise, not working to forestall a weakened future! If you are eating healthy, enjoy eating healthy, not the thought that you are pushing away cancer or some other dread inevitability.

Take a bite of life and savor it!

Be well.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Being

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Being in suffering, I walk recklessly. Being in suffering, my attention is on my pain. Being in suffering, I need to escape my pain. Being in suffering I cannot feel for others.

Being at peace, I walk lightly upon the earth. Being at peace, I am mindful of my actions and my speech. Being at peace, love has an opportunity to exist.

Through practice, develop the wisdom and insight to know these are both seeds within each of us and that they are of the same source. Our path is to begin with one and conclude with the other.

Be well.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

A Candle Against Hate

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

May all beings be free from suffering. A simple prayer, yet so challenging. When people hate us enough to kill us, and do so with glee, it is quite natural to want to kill them first. Natural, but not kind. Natural, but not correct. Natural, but not good enough.

I read a prayer this morning from a religious list that essentially petitioned God to punish our enemies. I was struck by this. It was an opening statement on a ethics text commentary.

When we ask God to take sides, we are our discerning self to take sides. The process of taking sides divides humanity into lumps: those we like, and those we don't like. Simple enough on its surface, but in the end it is very dangerous, as it is very easy to be tempted to see those we don't like as somehow different from us, less than us, or just plain evil.

People who hate are people who suffer. When we pray for an end to suffering we must pray for an end to hate, especially within ourselves. Hate has a place to germinate when we close ourselves off. Hate loves the darkness of ignorance. It thrives in the shadows.

Today, light a candle specifically for illuminating the dark places of your heart. Place your attention on the light of that small flame. Witness its steady warmth. One small flame, one large light.

Be well.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Not Always So

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

When we pray for peace, what are we doing? What does it mean, to "pray" for peace? Prayer is typically thought of as an appeal to God or to a government, or some other such authority.

But this is not always so.

An appeal suggests a disconnect between two or more parties. If we are one, then what would prayer be?

I see prayer as less an appeal to Other than as a modeling of the thing itself. To pray for peace thus becomes modeling peace. To pray for non-violence becomes modeling non-violence. To pray for the health of others means modeling healthy living. And so on.

When we pray this way, we are expressing the true nature of things.

Be well.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Matters of Consequence

With palms together,
Good Morning All,
 
The rain came down hard last night. I watched it from my living room as it soaked the ground. It is a real blessing to witness rain fall. Water is so precious. So much of life's preciousness goes unnoticed when we are not present to witness it.  We are often not present for such things because our attention is distracted by 'matters of consequence.' And yet, like The Little Prince, we should stay aware that it is the simplest things that are of the deepest consequence.
 
A rain, a shining sun, the feel of our feet on the ground: these are matters of consequence.  The water we drink, the food we eat, the clothes we wear: these are matters of consequence. The love in our life, the hate in our life, and our practice with them: these are matters of consequence.
 
So we practice to pay attention.  We practice to witness true matters of consequence, allowing our witness to nurture the good and burn away the evil.
 
This is not difficult. Do it now.
 
Be well.


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


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Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Middle East

With palms together,
Good Morning All,
 
May all beings be at peace and be free from suffering. War is not a helpful activity. No joy should be felt in the killing of beings, regardless of the cause.
 
The Middle East is a place that challenges us all. Deep divisions of culture, time, and faith coexist in increasing conflict and tension.  Victims of violence cry and feel angry. Everyone wants to hurt everyone, yet every one wants everyone else to stop.  No one trusts anyone. A place where humanity should shine, a so-called jewel of western religion, birthplace of monotheism and three major religions, and what is there today?
 
Hell.
 
Still, it is too easy for us here in the USA to point fingers at one side or the other, and especially at peoples and cultures we do not understand. Aren't we naive to suggest that everyone should just stop all this fighting and learn to get along?
 
It is not so simple to practice serene reflection in the middle of bombs and rockets, or while people are blowing themselves up calling for the utter destruction of another country.  Reason seems pale.  Compassion is seriously challenged.
 
Violence and the threat of violence never curtails violence, just as the death penalty never curtails murder.  This is so because violence at its root is not rational and, in its presence, incites additional irrationality in the form of fear. We must work hard to train ourselves to resist fear, to resist catastrophic thinking, and embrace our enemies as best we can by trying to understand them.
 
How do we accomplish this?  We practice zazen. We look deeply within ourselves and embrace our true nature, a nature which we all share, a universal nature. We must each respect each other, agree each other has a right to exist and a place to do so. We must support each others differences as well as our similarities. It never does any good to only seek the similarities, while pretending the differences don't exist.  Those differences then become splinter's in our fingers.  
 
Our world is precious, as is each being that inhabits it. Practice this.
 
Be well. 


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


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Friday, July 14, 2006

That Pesky Precept

With palms together,
Good Morning All,
 
We have brains, hearts, lungs, stomachs, kidneys, penises and/or clitorises. Just as our organs like the brain and heart function without our saying much about it, so too, the others. Yet, just so: because the motor is running does not mean we must put it in gear and step on the gas.
 
Second. We live in a natural world.  Nothing evil or good exists independent of us.  We create evil and good by our actions, and our evaluations of those actions. In the end, it is our intent that creates our karma.
 
Third. If we are using sexual conduct for healthy reasons, that is, for improving our mental and emotional states, or reproducing, then our intent is a benefit.  If, on the other hand, this behavior is rooted in a desire to harm, to control or punish, then we are using sexuality as a tool for harm and in so doing, creating evil.
 
Pornography, by itself, as pictures or film, is neutral. It is like the rock under my foot.  Or the thought in my head.  It means nothing by itself.  We add to it with that thought and then create evil or good with our action.
 
Fourth.  The industry of pornography is a whole other matter and thus a matter for us. If we say that smoking is harmful, then those who produce the product we smoke have a role to play in the responsibility equation. When a film portrays violence for the sake of glamorizing violence and thus, promoting violence, it is creating evil.  Just so, pornography. We have a responsibility in consuming such material in that sense.
 
Lastly, life is complex.  We are all infants in the process, learning as we go.  Sometimes our best efforts at understanding and doing the right thing are either not good enough or, in the worst case scenario (like a righteous war) short term fixes to long term problems. We should not punish ourselves for our behavior.  Rather we should learn from it and do better.
 
I cannot tell you what better is, only you and your heart and the faces of those you love (or hate) can do that.
 
 Be well.


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


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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Crickets

With palms together,
Good Morning All,
 
It is a wonderful morning already.  I was out with the dogs and relished the cool desert air and feel of the earth under my feet. Crickets, birds, and the gentle swish of leaves as the air moves them: all sounds so delicious getting out early to hear them is worth the effort.
 
I hear myself hearing them, I see myself seeing them: sky, mountains and my neighbor's windows.  Witnessing the witness, know you are they and they are you, the whole universe reveals its true nature.
 
Be well.
 
 
 
 


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


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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

With Palms Together,
Good Morning All,
 
We saw An Inconvenient Truth last night. Al Gore should receive a medal for his efforts with his slide show and this film.  It is a deeply challenging film, scary, yet hopeful.  And a moral statement about us as a species.
 
Many people feel politics and religion do not mix.  I have been one of them.  Yet, on closer inspection, ethics and morality are at the heart of both so how do we really separate them? I believe most people who say this, are using a rather narrow understanding of "political" to mean American politics, democrat, republican, independent, or green parties.
 
Al Gore believes this environment crisis is not a political issue, per se,  but a moral one. I agree with this when using a lessor definition of politics.  Yet, when it comes to what to do with the moral question and challenge, we are left with ethics and ethics demand action. Individual action and social action.  Social action is by definition political as it is done within a body politic.
 
Our religious commitments are the nexus between the individual and the community, the community and the universe, the univesre and the Universal.  
 
If you have not seen this film, I urge you to see it.  I saw yesterday that Gore has a book just released by the same title.  Read it.  Get involved on some level large or small: this is your planet and your planet is the home of all of your generations.
 
 
 
Be well,
 


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


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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

What's in Your Closet?

With palms together,
Good Morning All,
 
Someone wrote to me recently asking about pornography the precpt regarding sexual misconduct.  The letter was refreshingly candid and clearly presented a picture of a man working hard to understand himself and the precepts.
 
Internet pornography is a huge mega-billion dollar industry. This means that a lot of people go to these site and a lots of women and men participate in conduct that creates the materials for these sites.
 
The existence of this industry, like prostitution, raises a number of good questions about our nature, ethics, and our biology.
 
Just what is pornography, anyway?  I was sitting in Barnes & Nobles the other day with a friend and her step-daughter who was 16 going on 21. This young lady picked out a copy of Cosmo, she was wearing a very mini, mini skirt, and was clearly suffering from raging hormones. The cover of the magazine promised information on ver specific sexual issues and questions, the pictures in the magazine were tantizingly sexual. What do we make of this?
 
Is creating or viewing pornography a violation of the precepts? And if so, how?
 
When does sexual content or conduct become "misconduct"?
 
I have my own understanding of these questions, but I would like to hear yours.
 
Be well. 
 


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


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Monday, July 10, 2006

Seeking

With palms together,
Good Morning All,
 
Enlightenment.  Powerful word. Lots of people searching for it, most with only a vague feeling as to what it is. Which creates a question in my mind.  If we do not have a clear idea as to what this is, why are we searching for it?
 
Do we think enlightenment will make us feel better?  Think better?  Be better people?  Will it make us superior to the next person?  Will it be a sign that we are somehow special, or that we have finally arrived?
 
When you come to the practice of Zen, check your motives rather than your enlightenment.
 
Seeking satori is a big problem.  To search means that we are looking. And when we are looking, we are too busy to be present. Stop looking.
 
Be well. 


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


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Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Birds Are Up, The Trees Are Up...

With palms together,
Good Morning All,
 
Another wonderful morning comes our way.  I am listening to the birdsong out side the living room window. The rain we have been having has seemingly made everyone happy. The grass in the courtyard feels more alert, the trees seem taller, and clearly the birds are happy.
 
Have you noticed that life is like that?  Conditions create conditions. When we are surrounded by love and nurturance, we are loving and nurturing; when we are under stress we are more brittle and anxious. Internal and external coincide.
 
Yet both sides of this coin lead to our suffering.  To be happy and wish for the conditions of happiness are as powerful sources of suffering as stress and anxiety. You say, but wait, shouldn't we be happy?  Shouldn't we work to be happy and create the conditions for happiness?  I say, of course.  In the process though, do not let go of the fact that these conditions are impermanent and will, sooner or later, cease to exist. 
 
This means we can and should properly live only here and now. An eye toward tomorrow, a wink to the past, but fully present now. My sense is that the birds enjoy their day, whatever their day is. And the trees enjoy their day, whatever their day is. They do so because they are completely one with it.
 
Be well.


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


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Saturday, July 08, 2006

Losing and Gaining

With palms together,
Good Morning All,
 
A young lady lost her engagement ring in the grass near our courtyard yesterday.  She spent hours out there trying to find it.  For awhile, I searched with her, but the tiny ring was not to be found.
 
As we searched, she talked about the ring, just receiving it, her happiness, and her panic and hurt over losing it.  Yet, she also talked about her fiance.  How he said not to worry, that he will borrow a metal detector to search more deeply for it and if that failed he would just buy her another.
 
Nothing was really lost.  Nothing was really gained. Everything was revealed.
 
Be well.


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


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Friday, July 07, 2006

Rock, Scissors, Paper

With palms together,
Good Morning All,
 
One of the most profound teachings of the Buddha was about overcoming hate. Hatred is one of the three poisons and it is easily spread. Today, we spread hate through our words and deeds, our unkindness, our inability to be present and attentive, our willingness to put whole groups of people into categories barely giving their humanity a nod.  We spread hate through our eager willingness to retaliate, as if revenge will pacify our raging hearts. The worst part is that we do this instantly and on a worldwide basis.
 
The Buddha said that hate only begets hate. Being angry and hateful creates anger and hatefulness in others. And so on.  Love begets love. Being loving creates lovingness in others. And I believe this is true, but I also believe this is a very slow and very painful process.  There are no quick fixes for hate.
 
This very slowness of the process is a serious problem in a worldwide community of instant connectivity. Within seconds, pictures of bombings, rocket attacks, police brutality, ethnic and religious violence, wife beating, and so on are sent around the world. We have immediate reactions to these images, we make conclusions about the perpetrate rs we suffer with the victims and, as victims ourselves, want to not hurt, so we attack back.
 
Yet, we should rather love back. We should listen to the deeper meanings, the pain and suffering of those hateful people who attack us and vilify us, so that we can understand them and their point of view.  We see that they and we are essentially the same  We are all beings just trying to survive in a world.  When we set aside our hate we see the needs of our own children and families. When we set aside our hate, we offer love a gate to enter our hearts.
 
This is very scary because to open our selves to love means to experience vulnerability.  Those who have experienced trauma of the heart and body know this is such a challenge.  Yet, we know that hate just creates more hate and closed doors wither away our hearts and minds.
 
To effectively deal with this we must recognize our own impermanence. Regardless of what we do, open or closed, we are not forever.  So, in the time we have, how do we really want to live?
 
Be well. 
 


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


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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Far From Buddha

With palms together,
Good Morning All,
 
When we study the precepts, we are entering the study of moral life. We sometimes think of morality as a tricky thing.  But I say, the only tricky part is getting caught between the things we want or don't want and wanting or not wanting them both at the same time. Of course, Philosophy 101 classes and Ethics classes are full of those arguing about what is good and what is evil.  Or which I should do, honor the principle or support the greater good. We look to our group, family, or culture for answers.  Is this the "Christian" thing to do?  The Buddhist thing?  The Jewish thing?  We sometimes have guiding questions, "what would Jesus do?"  Or, "what would Buddha do?"  We look to the sources: does evil reside outside of us or inside?  Are we born evil or good?  Do we inherit morality? Is it us, the Adversary, or is it God?
 
So many questions. And while, at the time, given our age and circumstance, they may appear to not be useless, they are in the end, very useless questions. Because in the end, we are what we do and the measure of this is not fixed.
 
When the inside and the outside meet, that is it. Evaluation, discrimination, all are useless. They are hindrances to clear thought and action.
 
When I think of myself as a Buddhist, for example,  I am far from Buddha. Just as if I think of myself as a Jew or Christian or Muslim, I separate myself from God.
 
Morality is non-dualistic. It is just being one with the universe in thought, feeling, and action.  When we are one with the universe, with no space for judgment, then we are the universe: not good, not bad, not right, not wrong, not pure, not defiled, not born, not dead.  
 
Be well.


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


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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Stirring the Dust

With palms together,
Good Morning All,
 
We shared a few really nice hours with friends yesterday around and in their pool. Eating and drinking iced tea and lemonade, swimming and floating in the pool, all are good things. But the best part is sharing with others.
 
Someone suggested that I should back off a little at the synagogue, that I was alienating others as a new kid on the block coming in and taking over. Its funny how organizations are so often like this. Intentions are one thing, perception is a whole other thing. Sometimes an organization grows stale, it languishes in inertia, then someone comes in and stirs the dust and all the particles get upset.  I understand this.  I see myself as a catalyst sometimes whose destiny is to be a stirrer of dust.  
 
Well, the dust has been stirred. I am willing to sit down and see what new patterns emerge.
 
Meanwhile, the Zen Center is thriving. We had three new people from El Paso visit Sunday and were nearly at capacity.
 
This is so even over the summer when people are often away for this vacation and that vacation. I am pleased.
 
We will continue to work on making this a vital center of Zen practice. Please feel free to join us.
 
Be well.


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


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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Independence Day

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Hoopla today in the USA. Independence Day should give us pause to be thankful of the things independence from oppression offers us. Yet this independence is conditional, it always is. We are never independent, as if we are stand alone entities, pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. This most profound and basic statement of American value contains a fatal flaw. Someone must make the boots, the pants, and the shirts we wear. Someone must drill for the oil we burn, grow and harvest the food we eat, make the chemicals and do the magic that creates the plastic that forms so much the framework of our lives.

We celebrate our independence from oppression here today, yet live deeply oppressed. What's the name of the boot on our neck? Desire. True independence is our awakening to our true interdependence.

Be well,

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Truth is Out There?

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

Have you ever noticed how things change? Of course you have, it happens that we notice this so often, we've developed phrases for it: things change, whatever, so it goes, and so on. Yet, what we don't so often notice is just how much energy we put into keeping absolutes permanent. We want some things not to change, truth, for example. We want something we perceive to be true to stay that way. Otherwise our world would be a relativistic nightmare, we fear. Yes, we need our anchors.

The trouble is we look for anchors in all the wrong places. We look for them, first of all, as if they exist somewhere out there. We reify them, make them concrete and hard, like a statue or a note from God on a tablet made of stone. At this point we decide these are, indeed, the truth and the truth must be defended. And so it goes.
Yet, when we bother to examine truth closely what do we see? We see that truth always depends on the perceiver. Truth is, by definition, a mental construction. It does not exist independent of us. Therefore it is something we have invented to perceive, an overlay of sorts, like a gel used in theater to color a subject.
So where to look for truth and what is its true nature?

Here's a twister: the absolute truth is always relative to a context. We can say killing is wrong and that is an absolute truth and that would be true, but at the same time we must understand that the context of this absolute is the context of the value we place on life. So if life is being threatened and there is no other way to prevent it from being killed, we must kill the threat.

Second. Context is always subjective and relative. Context depends on a perceiver and perceivers exist in context with one another: they are, therefore relative. Some may argue that absolutes exist, by nature apart from a perceiver. To those I would ask, show me an absolute that could be understood without a context.

We begin with being still and we end in that stillness. Knowing that the stillness is not something out there, but something we are, as being itself. Stillness is not "running" when we are running. Stillness is not "working" when we are working. Nor is stillness "sitting" when we are sitting. Truth, like stillness, is both universal and relative. Hold onto it and it becomes false.

Be well.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Zen Stories

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

This morning the sky is overcast, a somewhat unusual state here in the desert. Still, we do have our rainy season and the 4th of July weekend is the 'traditional' mark of its beginning. This morning I go to Zen Center. This afternoon I have a lunch discussion group on Zen Stories at the International Delights Deli and Cafe. A cup of Zen Tea, a liitle rice, salad, hummas and pita, and good conversation.

Story telling is a great teacher. Stories are not like television or movies where so little is left to the imagination. Stories require us to truly engage ourselves, use our history, experience, imaginations, and feelings to co-create and explore the story. In the process we tease out the meanings and the lessons and personalize them. Because of this, stories are always different. Stories include, by definition, both the story-teller's story and the reader.

Today we will study story number four in 101 Zen Stories edited by Reps and Senzaki
http://www.101zenstories.com/

Be well.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

When Worlds Collide

With palms together,
Good Morning All,

A somewhat tumultuous conversation after services last night lead me to think a lot about consistency of values and actions. If one holds themselves out to be a person of faith and that faith calls for or points to certain values, then we should attempt to behave according to those values. So goes the story line. On the other hand, we each must come to our own values through our own spiritual work. It appears that spiritual work or reflection is no guarantee that common values will emerge. And then what? We cannot discount the values we oppose. We cannot dictate values. Yet, at the same time a group's cohesiveness often depends on shared values.

So what are we to do?

One thought I had is that people might begin speaking of only what their values are, rather than what others should not value. This will at least give us a set of values cast as positives. From this list of values, we could select those we believe are either worthy of our attention or less worthy of our attention, and then work on objectives and goals.

Of course, the problem with such a plan is that it ignores the crux of the issue: ethical dilemmas. An ethical dilemma occurs when two values of equal merit conflict with one another. Such an example might include a woman's right to choose what happens to her own body verses the value of life. Or the value of freedom on the one hand and the value of peace on the other.

Traditionally value conflicts or ethical dilemmas are dealt with by two types of resolution, a deontological perspective and a consequentialist perspective. A deontological approach is rules based, such as those within Judaism: a set of commandments decides.A consequentialist approach looks at what happens if each of the two paths to a conflict are taken, attempts to weigh the consequences for all concerned, and selects the path that leads to the greater good over bad for most of the people involved.

Yikes. Another problem! What happens to those people who hold a value, such as non-violence and others are able to establish the moral supremacy of their value, armed intervention?

We might say that some values are universal, peace, for example. But is peace always a universal value? This is the heart of true spiritual practice, in my opinion.

It is to those who engage in this true spiritual practice that I bow.

Be well.