Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Keep Walking

Keep walking, though there's no place to go.
Don't try to see into the distances.
That's not for human beings. Move within,
But don't move the way fear makes you move.

~ Rumi (Barks)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Karma: Actions Evolve Into Experienced Results

Karma: The Third of the Four Reminders

Though I may not be able to see all the impacts of my actions, I know that acts do have consequences. Everything I think, say, and do has consequences, large or small, immediate or distant. Karma is the evolution of action and result. Each action’s intended and unintended consequences become new seeds, setting up conditions that influence my future actions.

Every action I do becomes easier to repeat. Repeated actions become habits, and habits become character. My actions inevitably ripen into my experience of happiness and suffering. Ignoring the effects of my actions does not relieve me of the consequences. I alone am responsible for my actions and my experience of life.

We have about as much room to move as a violin in a violin case. And that’s enough.
~ Michael Conklin

Everyone has the potential to wake up, to see how things are, to stop creating suffering, to help others. But not everyone does. This brief, precious life can be used for good or ill. Is my life my own, or is it being directed and consumed by habitual patterns I do not choose?

When you really know yourself, you will realize how important it is to practice zazen. Before you know what you are doing, you don’t know why we practice. You think you are quite free, that whatever you do is your choice, but actually you are creating karma for yourself and others. You don’t know what you’re doing, so you don’t think there is any need to practice... But we have to pay our own debts; no one else can pay our debts. That is why we practice. To fulfill our responsibility we practice. We have to.
~ Suzuki Roshi

No Wrangling

Make sure there is no wrangling between the breath and the will.

~ from A Book on Breath by the
Master Great Nothing of Sung Shan

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Impermanence: Everything Changes

The second of the Four Reminders:

Every event and circumstance in this world is dependent on complex causes and conditions that are constantly arising and disappearing.

The pleasures, conditions, beliefs, and relationships that I rely on — which of them is genuinely reliable and lasting? What am I taking for granted? As I observe the world about me, I can see that everything changes — nothing stays the same.

the end of accumulation is dispersion
the end of building is ruin
the end of meeting is parting
the end of birth is death

The inhabitants of the world come and go. Every one of them will die. Though I see change, impermanence, and death all around me, I act as though I were going to live forever — but I too will die.

My death will definitely come, and I have no idea when.

Today you live, and tomorrow you are
dust. One fever will quench your pride
~ Romanus

I may live a long time, or I may die today. What I do know is that each day brings me one day closer to my inevitable death. Nothing — not wealth, intelligence, strength, power, friends or family — will prevent me from dying.

Where in my life do I ignore change? What am I trying to cling to?

What is really important to me?

Am I living the life that I want?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Taking Refuge and Sharing the Good


Inner experience is more important than the external practices that support the inner movement (prayers, recitation, bowing, etc). Intention and cultivation are more important than the feeling-tone at the moment of taking refuge or sharing the good. We may not feel confident about taking refuge, or generous in sharing the good, but we practice doing them, and as they deepen, they moves us, and we let them. We may be moved to bow, or pray, and then those movements are meaningful.

Taking refuge begins with disgust with the ignoring/confusion/reactivity that creates suffering, and coming to see and acknowledge that it is futile to try to find happiness through reactivity. Out of disgust and hopelessness, we are moved to turn away from confusion and reactivity, and we begin to find the willingness, and to form the intention, to move toward freedom -- to free ourselves and others from struggle and suffering.

Taking refuge is disavowing our habitual attachment and allegiance to patterned behaviors, and touching and pledging fidelity to the three jewels. The three jewels operate on many levels, and any of the levels are good. (Click here to see Ken McLeod's explanation of inner, outer, and ultimate refuge). Ultimately, buddha is our inherent indestructible awareness; dharma is any practice that frees us and our inherent ability to integrate practice into our life; sangha is anyone who is also cultivating awareness and compassion -- that is, everyone.

The purpose of practice is to free ourselves and others from suffering and its causes. Dedicating the merit means sharing the good that comes from our practice. We acknowledge and appreciate the effort that has gone into our practice, and every bit of the pleasure and good that has come or ever will come from our practice, and we form the intention to share it with others. We appreciate and share every moment of pleasure, peace, clarity, understanding, and freedom, and we freely share those with everyone.

Better to take refuge, breathe in and out three times in attention, and share the good, than to get tangled up in complex practices for hours, striving and grasping for results.

The Universe Rings True

What I like about experience is that it is such an honest thing. You may take any number of wrong turnings; but keep your eyes open and you will not be allowed to go very far before the warning signs appear. You may have deceived yourself, but experience is not trying to deceive you. The universe rings true wherever you fairly test it.

~ C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy