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
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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.