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When Horses Cry

  • I wrote the following post the day after the shooting of innocent Amish Children in Paradise, PA.  I have pulled it from my Archives because I believe we need to read it again.

The sound of the horses hooves were heard across the cornfields as they pulled the carriages carrying the Mothers and Fathers, Sisters and Brothers, Aunts and Uncles, and fellow neighbors of the Amish Community of Paradise Pennsylvania making their way to the funeral of the man who, just two days ago, senselessly murdered their daughters. “They had already forgiven him.” the press wrote that morning, and now they were on their way to console the wife and children of this man, and to stand at his gravesite and pray that he would find the peace in death that he could not find in life.

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The Last Spiritual Warrior – Living a Zen Inspired Life

“They are an intriguing people.  From the moment they wake they devote themselves to the perfection of whatever they do.”  – The Last Samurai

A friend of mine asked me the other day, “How can I make my spiritual life more than just wanting a new Mercedes?”  In the East they say, “It is better to know the right question than to know the right answer.”  My friend “knows” the “right question”.
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Living the Zen Iinspired Life – If there is no resolve, you might as well stay on the sofa.

“It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.” – Buddha

Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.” So is “resolve” the missing ingredient in most people’s efforts to create real and lasting changes in their lives? Take for example one’s weight loss effort, getting to the gym, trying to stop procrastinating, cleaning that closet, or practicing to be more compassionate, without resolve we might as well stay on the sofa. Now I believe that at all times we already know what we need to do, we just don’t like it. Most people never get pass their habitual behavior of finding “excuses” as to why “they can’t”. My three-year old daughter, who is my teacher on many levels, always says to me whenever I tell her “she can’t”, “But I can try.” I often tell people, “Today a persons word is equal to their excuses.” We talk a great deal about who we can rely on in times of trouble, most of us are never on that list.

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5
Dec

Merlon’s Final Voyage

America mourns for the Indian
figure who knelt like a supplicant before dairy,
fatly blessed our milks, our cheeses,
anointed our lands & shores.
The Google tutorials surface—
the “boob trick:” score the box & fold to make
a window for her knees to jut through.
O our butter maiden
brought all the boys to the yard.
Twittersphere so prostrate with grief
petitions are launched for the Dairy Princess:
O our pat O Americana,
O our dab O Disneyesque,
O our dollop O Heritage.
The mourning procession bears witness:
Jolly Green Giant & Chicken of the Sea Mermaid,
Uncle Ben & Aunt Jemimah,
magically delicious leprechaun & Peter Pan—
even the Argo Cornstarch Maiden & Mazola
Margarine “you call it corn, we call it maize”
spokes-Indian raise stalks in solidarity.
Mia, aptly named, our butter girl mascot,
the only Indian woman gone missing
that anyone notices, anyone cares about.

“Distracted from COVID-19, Attention Shifts to MIA Maiden from Land O’Lakes Butter Box”
— Tiffany Midge

I wake up each morning filled with fear that this may be the beginning of my last days here with my Sweetpea, my Sisters and Brothers, and you who honor me, you who are reading this. I weigh myself, “Ah Thank You Pappa, still holding.” I say to myself, “Someday, but not today and not for long while.”

“The mourning procession bears witness,” “I’m not hungry, does this mean something, am I losing my appetite.” “Oh No, there it is.” I make myself a cup of Matcha Tea and take my time to enjoy its flavor and savor its promise, “This is good for you.” Eventually I will make that breakfast and savor it, for it is not just hunger for food, it is hunger for longevity. I remind myself of the mystery, “A thousand years is one day, one-day a thousand years.”

I hear my oncologist words, “As long as you can handle the chemo.” “I can and I will.” I’m not finished here.” “I will see my daughter become a young women, I will see my mission to completion.” “Take that science, you emotionless feelingless — “Shadow of the dark side.” You have no idea what Loving really can do.” I see her smile in the corners of my mind, I hear her voice, “Daddy, will you hold me.” I will see this through, we have, God and I, a mutual agreement that’s older than birth and death itself. I sit before a lifeless statue, a statue of “Infinite Potential”. I have nothing to say, “Just Sitting,” “Gift” more than plenty, whenever I consider “This could be the beginning of my last days.”

There’s a lot of talk these days in homes and streets, in bars and restaurants, in churches and synagogues, and I suspect in Zendo’s too — “How are we going to get through this?” “Will we?” And then, “What’s next?”

“Too many mind’s,” I hear the ancient Zen Masters say. The secret is to know the right question. “Daddy, will you hold me?” Ah yes, there it is. The secret is to have eyes that can see, to notice “What is really missing?” A lot of “ego” these days, smelling of survival – Reason enough! But is it enough? I think not.

We can’t just keep dreaming of a better world, a more inclusive world, a more Loving-kind world, a more Compassionate world. We created the one we’ve got, with its darkness and light, its monsters and heroes; we can, and we must create the one we want. We’ve delayed too long and built our cities and streets, and roads from here to there, over bodies and cemeteries of too many of our family and friends, too many strangers who only wanted to share.

“Faith” Ha! Yeah I hear you — “Love is the most powerful force in the Universe.” Really? Do you really believe that? Someone once said, “If we believed that with as much faith as small as a mustered seed, we could move these damn mountains we keep building between us.” And then there’s the never ending tendency to put it all off, until it gets really bad. Bad enough? 14,041,46 COVID-19 cases as of today. 275,386 deaths. If not now, when?

“Where oh where is love? Does it fall from Skys above? Is it underneath, the willow tree, that I’ve been dreaming of? Where is she, who I close my eyes to see? Will I ever know, the sweet “Hello” that’s meant for only me? Who can say where she may hide? Must I travel far and wide? Till I am beside the someone who, I can mean something to. Where oh Where is Love? (From the Broadway Show – Oliver)

“Oliver” is everywhere, singing the same old tune. In fields and forests; In streets and homes; in bars and restaurants; in statehouses and federal buildings, in schools and in hospitals. “Must I travel far and wide?” No! “Who can say where she/he may hide?” They were never hidden! If you listen inside, and stop chattering outside, you will hear his tune, and you will not be able to help yourself. “Daddy can you hold me?” YES! NOW! ANYTIME YOU ASK? And that will be the beginning of “Creating Heaven on Earth”. And that will be the end of the old-world where no-one saw anyone, or heard anyones voice. Where everyone is familiar and no “Inn is too full” ever again.

Bad Enough? Yet? I think so — “Let’s Begin!”

I Love you,

Seijaku Roshi

12
Nov

Nothing To Attain

“Not going, Not Coming
Rooted Deep and Still
Not Reaching Out
Not Reaching In
Just Resting at The Center
A Single Jewel
The Flawless Crystal Drop
In the Blaze of Its Brilliance
The Way Beyond”

— Shih Te —

“I would like to give you something, But what would help?”
— Ikkyu, Fifteenth Century Zen Master —

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion.” Is the “present moment” here — now? Is the “present moment” over there — then? Do we need to go to the mountain? Do we need to go anywhere in particular? Do we need to be here, in this place right where we are?

The True Way is more Mystery than we would like to admit. Left with our own thoughts, “We’d never admit it.” The “Here and Now” is neither a “place” or “time”. It is neither “here” or “there”. If so, and it is so, then what is this “Present Moment, the only time over which we have dominion?”

People say we are living in uncertain times, for most it feels like we are living in uncharted waters. But was there ever a time this was not so? I don’t think so. Zen Master Ikkyu asks, “What would help?” His koan challenges us to enter into The True Way, where life is what it really is — Uncertain and Hopeless. Where “Living Spiritually” is what it truly is — “Not going, Not Coming. Rooted Deep and Still. Not Reaching Out, Not Reaching In…”

What is evident, and we cannot deny this if we have the courage to look — is that we live in, and have for centuries lived in, a “consumer oriented” culture and society. We do nothing unless there is something in it for us, including “Living Spiritually”. Yet, there is no evidence that this is The True Way. In fact the opposite proves to be The True Way.
Once again Ikkyu says to us, “We’re lost where the mind can’t find us, utterly lost.” Our coming and going, our reaching out and reaching in, has taken us to where we find ourselves today — certainly feeling at least — “utterly lost”.

The True Way neither “reaches out” or “reaches in”. It does not “reach out” and go searching for the solution to our discontentment in the world of people, places, and things. Neither does it “reach in” for the solution to our discontentment, in the world of our thoughts about, the world of people, places, and things — “Just Resting at The Center, A Single Jewel — The Flawless Crystal Drop, In the Blaze of Its Brilliance —The Way Beyond.”

When all “thinking about life” ceases or, when we cultivate a deeper awareness of how our thinking so informs our experience and not the people, places, and things, this is when and this how we — “Have Dominion.” “Just Resting at The Center,” just breathing in, just breathing out, just taking care of business, we find the “Single Jewel —The Flawless Crystal Drop, In the Blaze of Its Brilliance…” We find we are able to Live; to Love, free of what leaves us utterly lost in our thoughts and our emotions — where True—Mind, True—Self, Original—Self, “cannot find us”.

The True Way is truly — “The Way Beyond”. Beyond all our thinking about life, beyond all our efforts, our coming and going, to find the solution to our discontentment. The “hopelessness” Ikkyu points to, ceases, when we stop coming and going. When we finally “drop anchor” and “just take care of business”. What business? We can begin with, we must begin with, “Just Loving Ourselves,” practicing “Self-Compassion”. Without needing or wanting any proof or reason why to, “Just Love Our—Self”. When there is nothing to gain from it, no reason to do it, then we will know who we truly are for “Love” is the ground for Self-Discovery. We cannot and will not ever discover who we truly are, or for that matter, who other truly is, until we step out of this “consumer oriented” approach. When there is “Nothing to Gain,” then there is “Everything to Gain”. Once we have committed to Self-Compassion, we then extend to everyone we meet, everywhere we go.

In meditation, contemplation, and benevolent service, the Three Pillars of Living Spiritually, one seeks to gain nothing. There is a “natural” increase in contentment and peace of mind. When we look closely at what it really means to “live spiritually,” “What have you gained?”, the answer would be: “It is not what I have gained that is important but rather what I have diminished, namely, Greed, Hatred, and Delusion.” Then, suddenly, “A Single Jewel, The Flawless Crystal Drop — In the Blaze of Its Brilliance.”

If we are ever going to eliminate our fear of “uncertainty and hopelessness,” which informs our experience and every choice and decision we make, we cannot continue to do it the way we have done it up and until now. Einstein wrote, “Problems cannot be solved with the same mind set that created them.” We need a new approach, an ancient approach, where the solution to our problems have already been resolved.

Sister Joan Chittister, a Benedictine Nun, calls us to, “Make an unflinching commitment to act with Integrity — out of the fullness of our being — not simply our pragmatic, comfortable, or fearful selves.” The dictionary’s definition for “integrity” is, “A strict adherence to a particular way-of-being.” To live with integrity is to live with uncertainty, hopelessness, and fear, and to live “Upright, with Courage and Audacity.” To say what we mean, and to mean what we say. Our “yes” is really “yes,” our “no” is really “no” and — our Love is Really Unconditional. To be reliable, faithful, and trustworthy. To show up, not just “intending” or “promising” to show up — to really “show up”. To be driven by a commitment to “something larger than ourselves,” rather than just “our pragmatic, comfortable, or fearful selves.” To be, “A force in Nature, rather than just a clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world is not devoting itself to making me happy.”

Our World is not going to change just by the actions of a few. This time it’s going to take all of us. This time it’s going to take a “community”. We Are More Together Than Alone — each of us with our own unique talent and inherent capability to meet the current and future challenges, bringing to the whole our — “Piece of Ourselves” to complete the whole.

I believe what Zen masters have been predicting for centuries — the next Buddha or Messiah will have the name of “Maitreya”. Maitreya is a bodhisattva who will appear on Earth in the future, achieve complete enlightenment, and teach the pure dharma — The Dharma of Loving-Kindness, Infinite Compassion, and Benevolent Service. Maitreya, will not appear in the form of a person, but as “Community”. The Buddha, Shakyamuni, predicted that the next Buddha would be Maitreya, the Buddha of love. We desperately need love. We Desperately Need You!

I Love You,
Seijaku Roshi

30
Oct

Making Our Way

O! my heart now feels so cheerful as I go with footsteps light
      In the daily toil of my dear home; 
And I’ll tell to you the secret that now makes my life so bright—
      There’s a flower at my window in full bloom. 
It is radiant in the sunshine, and so cheerful after rain; 
        And it wafts upon the air its sweet perfume. 
It is very, very lovely! May its beauties never wane—
        This dear flower at my window in full bloom. 
Nature has so clothed it in such glorious array, 
      And it does so cheer our home, and hearts illume; 
Its dear memory I will cherish though the flower fade away—
      This dear flower at my window in full bloom. 
Oft I gaze upon this flower with its blossoms pure and white. 
        And I think as I behold its gay costume, 
While through life we all are passing may our lives be always bright 
        Like this flower at my window in full bloom.

— Lucian B. Watkins

Spirituality can be defined broadly as a sense of connection to something higher than ourselves, something larger than simply the mundanities of everyday life. This is not to be understood as something separate from the mundane, quite the contrary. We are called to live and find that divine connection in the everyday mundane activities and challenges, in our world as it is, and not as we might expect it to be.

Watkins poem begins, “O! my heart now feels so cheerful as I go with footsteps light In the daily toil of my dear home;  And I’ll tell to you the secret that now makes my life so bright—There’s a flower at my window in full bloom.” It points to the presence of “the flower at my window in full bloom,” as the source of joy for the observer. However what it does not consider is that it is the “observer” in the poem who is “able” to notice the flower in all its glory — “As I go with footsteps light In the daily toil of my dear home.”

The sense of transcendence, experienced in spirituality is a universal experience, but one which requires much more than imagination, (which so often can be misleading), or chance. Thomas Merton reminds his brother and sister Christians, “The fact remains that our task is to seek and find Christ in our world as it is…”. The saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” speaks to the fundamental “practice” of living spiritually in the world. “The secret that now makes my life so bright,” is that I have developed a way of seeing the world that allows for joy, for faith, for confidence, for steadfastness, for love and for personal fulfillment. My sense of fulfillment is not a function of what is in the world but, of “how I see what is in the world”. “The Secret,” is in how I approach “the daily toil of my dear home”. It’s never about “how the world is,” it’s always about “how I am approaching the daily toil of my dear home.”

Living Spiritually is a shift from depending on the world to be this way or that way for my happiness to, realizing that my happiness is completely dependent on how I live in the world. Beauty is everywhere, but do we have the eyes to see it. Love pervades the entire Universe, “Revealing right here right now.”

Developing the “Eyes to See, and the Ears to Hear”

“It is almost impossible to overestimate the value of true humility and its power in the spiritual life. For the beginning of humility is the beginning of blessedness and the consummation of humility is the perfection of all joy. Humility contains in itself the answer to all the great problems of the life of the soul. It is the only key to faith, with which the spiritual life begins: for faith and humility are inseparable. In perfect humility all selfishness disappears and your soul no longer lives for itself or in itself…In humility is the greatest freedom. As long as you have to defend the imaginary self that you think is important, you lose your piece of heart. As soon as you compare that shadow with the shadows of other people, you lose all joy, because you have begun to trade in unrealities and there is no joy in things that do not exist…In humility is the greatest and only true freedom.” — Thomas Merton

“One has to be alone, under the sky, Before everything falls into place and one finds his or her own place in the midst of it all. We have to have the humility to realize ourselves as part of nature, as part of something larger than ourselves.”

The late Charlotte Joko Beck once wrote that, “Enlightenment is growing up.” Living Spiritually, living authentically, demands the most heroic labor; it demands an unyielding faithfulness to what is true, to what is essential, and an unprecedented purity of consciousness. One enters into a new sphere — a new way-of-being in the world. One which is grounded in a sense of one’s personal place in the universe and how one’s singular responsibility is authenticity which inevitably leads to benevolent service, compassion for oneself and others, and love as a force of nature and not just some sentimental or romantic notion.

Back to The Future

There is a great deal of chatter about “getting back to normal”. I ask, “What normal?”

“Our pre-corona existence was not normal other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack.”

The present moment is a function of individual and collective ways-of-being which includes our priorities, choices, and actions in the past. We did not just show up here. We’ve been heading here for decades. The only course of action which will lead us “through the valley of the shadow of death” and to the “promise land,” is to change our current course of action.

If we are ever going to recover, if we are ever going to successfully create a more enlightened, loving, compassionate, and inclusive society, we need to stop lying about the past, we need to own our mistakes and then; Forget the past, especially the one you think existed. Let it all go! This is how we begin to heal from this pandemic and all the pre-existing suffering it brought out into the light.

“We have been given the opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and the whole of nature.”

No matter who occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue come January 2021, if we return to the normalization of greed, hatred, and indifference — the only thing that will change are the actors and we will see suffering far greater than what we are witnessing today. Not only do we need new actors we need a new script, a new direction, a new way-of-being in the world. One which reflects “our place in the universe,” “our designed purpose for existence,” “our true-nature,” which reflects Nature’s way-of-being.

The first step toward recovery and reconciliation is to own the problem and the source of the problem. While I wholeheartedly agree it is necessary to VOTE so much more of us is required toward bringing about personal and global recovery and healing. We cannot just expect the actors on the stage to bring about this recovery. “We the People,” each and every one of us must own the vision for the future.

We must say, “No” to “Greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack,” as an acceptable way-of-being in the world. We begin by taking inventory and recognizing how these behaviors have defined our own lives or way-of-being in the world.

“Living Spiritually, Living Authentically, demands the most heroic labor; it demands an unyielding faithfulness to what is true, to what is essential, and an unprecedented purity of consciousness.”

We begin right where we are. Without criticism or judgement, we merely make necessary corrections in the way we think of ourselves and others; the way we communicate love for ourselves and others, and the way we behave, especially during the most difficult and challenging times.

The Buddha taught, “We become what we dwell on.” (Para) If we are always dwelling on “how bad the world is,” we become fearful, suspicious, and mistrusting. If we are only focused on what needs to be done to correct the world, we become judgmental and critical. If we are focused on thinking and communicating what is needed to heal ourselves and others, we become Bodhisattvas.

The Way of The Bodhisattva

“You who see that experience has no coming or going, Yet pour your energy solely into helping beings, My excellent teachers and Lord All Seeing, I humbly and constantly honor with my body, speech, and mind. The fully awake, the buddhas, source of joy and well-being,
All come from integrating the noble Way.”

“Right now, you have a good boat, fully equipped and available — hard to find. To free others and you from the sea of samsara, Day and night, fully alert and present, Study, Reflect, and Meditate — this is the practice of a Bodhisattva.”

“Don’t engage disturbances and reactive emotions gradually fade away; Don’t engage distractions and spiritual practice naturally grows; Keep awareness clear and vivid and confidence in the way arises. Rely on silence — this is the practice of a Bodhisattva.”

Living a Meaningful and Purposeful Life is the Only Life Worth Living

“While the understanding of spirituality differs across religions and belief systems, it can be described by finding meaning and purpose in life…Seeking a meaningful connection with something larger than yourself can result in increased positive emotions. Transcendent moments are filled with peace, awe, and contentment—emotional and spiritual wellbeing overlap, like most aspects of wellbeing.”

Shall we begin?

I Love You,
Seijaku Roshi

5
Oct

The Path to Freedom and The End of Tyranny

“We do not want you to copy or imitate us. We want to be like a ship that has crossed the ocean, leaving a wake of foam, which soon fades away. We want you to follow the Spirit, which we have sought to follow, but which must be sought anew in every generation.” — 1st Generation Quakers

“Community is The Spirit, The Guiding Light…” — St. Benedict

Zen, Authentic Spirituality, is characterized by an emphasis of abundant simplicity—Simplicity grounded in the absence of the pursuit of any person, place, experience, thing, desire, or ideal, as the source of our joy. There exists for the Zen Contemplative a simple and profound yearning for complete union with “not knowing” or life as it is recognized in Zen which is fundamentally “Empty” and “Mystery,” removing all obstacles to the deepening of this relationship with one’s true-self, with this moment, and ones immediate environment.

As Rumi once wrote, “Our true work is not to go in pursuit of Love, chasing after it in people, places, objects, and experiences, but to inquire within ourselves as to the emotional, psychological, and spiritual obstacles we have built up in our lifetime preventing us from seeing Love where it always has been — within us and all around us.” (Para)

Thus, we find the Buddha’s emphasis on — “Right Point-of-View; Right Thought and Intention; Right Speech and Action; Right Effort and Concentration, and so on.” All designed to cultivate the ground for helpful attitudes and motives, with the emphasis of avoiding unwholesome and habitual ways-of-being learned in ones lifetime, which prove to be obstacles toward liberating oneself from a life driven by fear, emotional and sentimental ties, that only complicate the inner journey.

For the ancient Zen masters and their students, relationships were “non-attachment”: They cared for others without any expectation of reciprocity. Concern for personal gain or self-aggrandizing was discarded. While feelings or emotions were acknowledged, with an emphasis on fully experiencing them, they were subjected to the discipline of the heart’s goal to awaken and to liberate oneself from the false-self and egocentric self which operated from a place of fear and craving.

Integrity was utmost, followed by an unrelenting devotion to prayer, contemplation, meditation, and benevolent service. Sacrifice was expected and understood to be essential. Ones vocation was to sacrifice this small self, this egocentric self, so that, “The person we were always meant to be,” could surface and get on with the real business of the spiritual life — “The liberation of all sentient beings from suffering and its causes.”

One of the tools used by the contemplative is a deep inquiry into the meaning of what The Buddha called, “Right Point-of-View,” which included how one viewed himself or herself and, his or her place in the world. One cannot endeavor to achieve this without eventually arriving at the realization of our’s and all sentient beings “interconnected and interdependent” relationship. We are not born for ourselves alone, we are born for each others benefit. Our place in the Universe is defined by the level of true-self realization — that the real meaning and purpose of my life was and is to live my life as a benefit for all other sentient beings and the whole of Nature. This could not and cannot be achieved apart from living morally and with a mindful awareness of not only my needs but the needs of my brothers and sisters with whom I coexist and co-create the world around me with. The solution to which is what followed or more accurately, which was embedded in the contemplative life — “Community”.

“Life in community is no less than a necessity for us — it is an inescapable “must” that determines everything we do and think. Yet it is not our good intention or efforts that have been decisive in our choosing this way of life. Rather, we have been overwhelmed by a certainty — a certainty that has its origin and power in the source of everything that exists…We must live in community because all life exists in a communal order and works toward community.” (Para)

The truly spiritual, the true contemplative, lives his or her life deeply committed to the “belief in the overwhelming power of life, the power of love to overcome, and the ultimate triumph of truth…This deeply committed belief is not a theory; neither is it a dogma, a system of ideas, or a fabric of words…We must live in community for only in such a positive venture can it become clear how incapable of living life fully the individual is and that community is that life-giving force which makes all things possible.” (Para)

Community answers the social-political crises our Nation and the World finds itself in today. While millions of individuals, religious and political organizations, are engaged in the battle against tyranny and injustice, the contemplative cannot fight their battles in their way.

“With them we stand side-by-side with those who have little or nothing, with the underprivileged and marginalized, and with the degraded and depressed. And yet we must avoid the kind of class struggle that employs violent means to avenge lives taken through exploitation. We reject the defensive war of the suppressed just as much as the defensive war of nations…We live in community because we take our stand in the spiritual fight on the side of all those who fight for freedom, unity, peace, and social justice.” (Para)

While the contemplative remains committed to living a life benefitting all sentient beings and to laboring for the liberation of all sentient beings from suffering and its causes, he or she realizes that they can “only give what they have achieved for themselves”. All that, restricts and limits human consciousness and humanity, all that possesses the minds and hearts of millions, their attachments and compulsions, and which must be healed and reconciled, must first be achieved by the monk, the nun, or student of Zen, themselves. Before I can be of any benefit to others I must move toward inner freedom and detachment from those thoughts and cravings which bind me. The cultivation of the individuals inner freedom was and remains vital to the deepening of their experience of suffering and its causes in the world. “As they deepened their interior freedom, all aspects of their false self were removed and a clearer understanding of their truest self emerged.” It is this “true-self” that dwells deeply within the minds and hearts of all beings, and hungers to be realized and manifested in the world. Whenever and wherever we find tyranny and suffering, we find that this Self is restricted or limited in one form or another. For it is in the liberation of all sentient beings and the elevation toward Full-True-Self expression, we will finally realize personal and global freedom and experience our deepest joy.

We must live in community because when all obstacles are removed we will, as those before us have, find that same Spirit that has led mankind toward community since the beginning of time.

Shall we begin?

I Love You,
Seijaku Roshi

1
Oct

Broken But Not Broke

Meditation

“We had a kettle; we let it leak:
Our not repairing it made it worse.
We haven’t had any tea for a week…
The bottom is out of the Universe.”


― Rudyard Kipling,

Reflection

I never imagined that all the years I have trained as a monk would be tested in the crucible of the last twenty-eight months. Living with cancer is an invitation to pay attention to the life given us, life before cancer, and life as I learn to live with cancer. At its best and most useful, it forces us to look inside ourselves and confront the essential questions of birth and death, to see wherever we have dropped the ball, and in whatever time we have left, to fix what is broken in us and, in our world.

“The truth about one’s mortality challenges us to reach down into the muck of our hurtful, broken past, broken relationships, broken promises, and our broken selves, where we hide so much, and promise we will blister our hands in the heat and the cold and fix what needs to be fixed — not simply throw him, her, or it, or ourselves away, shrug, and move on.”

Most people don’t fix much of anything anymore. We have become a “throw away society”. (I also know that not everything that is broken can be fixed.) When you are challenged however with the choice to either get on with living or to get on with dying, for some the choice is clear while others hope that someone or something will come along and make that choice for them. Unfortunately even if it is made for us, in the end — we must do the living or the dying.

“Tibetan Buddhists say that a person should never get rid of their negative energy, that negative energy transformed is the energy of enlightenment, and that the only difference between neurosis and wisdom is struggle. If we stop struggling and open up and accept what is, that neurotic energy naturally arises as wisdom, naturally informs us and becomes our teacher.”

We find our salvation not in some ideal but rather, right in, the world we have; in both our personal suffering and the suffering of the world. We are called to “bear witness” to our suffering and others. To hold that suffering within our hearts and through applying the principles of loving-kindness, compassion, and benevolence, transform it into the energy that will heal and transform our world.

In Buddhism as in Judaism and Christianity there is an anticipation of a future coming of a Messiah or in Buddhism the next Buddha.

“Where shall we look for the Messiah?” Asked the ancient sages. “Shall the Messiah come to us on clouds of glory, robed in majesty and crowned with light?” One sage imagines this question posed to no less an authority than the prophet Elijah himself. “Where,” the sage asks Elijah, “shall I find the Messiah?” “At the gate of the city,” Elijah replies. “How shall I recognize him?” “He sits among the lepers.” “Among the lepers?” Cries the sage. “What is he doing there?” “He changes their bandages,” Elijah answers. “He changes them one by one.”

For Mahayana Buddhist a long held belief by some (myself included) but not all, has been that the next Buddha will not necessarily be any one individual. The next Buddha will appear in the world as “Sangha” or “Community” —

“It is possible the next Buddha will not take the form of an individual. The next Buddha may take the form of a community, a community practicing understanding and lovingkindness, a community practicing mindful living. And the practice can be carried out as a group, as a city, as a nation.”

It is important to recognize that both prophecies point to “behavior” as the force behind the arrival of the new Messiah or Messianic Era or The Enlightened Era of the Buddha. Here we understand that the Messianic Era or the Enlightened Era as in Buddhism, will be a function of first the individual and then, the masses becoming the full embodiment of both the Messiah and or Buddha —

“At the gate of the city,” Elijah replies. “How shall I recognize him?” Asks the sage. “He sits among the lepers.” “Among the lepers?” cries the sage. “What is he doing there?” “He changes their bandages,” Elijah answers. “He changes them one by one.”

“The Buddha body is in us. Using the energy of mindfulness, meditation, and living virtuously, living community for each other, we can touch the body of the Buddha within us and around us at any time. And I know the sangha body is in me and around me. The trees, the grass, the blue sky, the flowers are all elements of the sangha. And you, are my sangha body. You take care of me.” I take care of you.

“Community is the Spirit, the Guiding Light…” In a genuine community of deeply devoted people, the individual finds his or her true-freedom in the free decision of the united — All for One — One for All. Spirit, “Working from within each member as the will for the good of humanity and the whole of Nature, freedom becomes unanimity and concord.” Liberated by the Spirit of Community, Guided by the Light of loving-kindness, compassion, and benevolence, which is the Heart and Soul of Community, each person naturally moves toward the realization and actualization of the good of humanity and the benefit of the whole of Nature.

We must live in Community because the eternal struggle against the destructive and enslaving powers of Greed, Hatred, and a Culture of Indifference toward global suffering and injustice, “Against all the wrong and injustice people do to each other,” cannot be met alone by any one individual, it can only be eventually conquered by the ranks of souls and bodies mobilized to meet this struggle wherever it is found and whenever it is before us.

Today it is clear that,

“The challenge of liberation for unity and the fullness of love is being fought on many different fronts with many different means. So too, the work of community finds expression in many different ways because the Spirit of Community is rich, boundless, seamless and timeless, and inclusive. But no matter the expression there is a common certainty of purpose…and when we possess this certainty we will be given the strength for loyalty and unerring clarity, even in small things, to the very end.”

Perhaps here we need to reflect on what is at the root of what so often seems to be an impossible task. What is missing for so many is I believe to be a “lack of certainty”. A “certainty” that can only be nurtured and reinforced by a singular view of ones self and ones place in the world, and a purposeful approach born and sustained out of that view.

The solution has always been for me, what I call “The Principle of Identity”. In his teachings, “The Art of Peace” Morihei Ueshiba writes,

“You are here for no other purpose than to realize your inner divinity and manifest your inner enlightenment. Foster peace in your own life and then apply the Art to all that you encounter.”

This is the ground for achieving the impossible. No matter how long and how difficult and, how impossible it may seem. Each of us, ordinary beings, called to live extraordinary lives. We are called to meet hatred with love. We are called to meet indifference with benevolence. We are called to meet polarization and the delusion of separation with community. We are called to the impossible task of healing ourselves, our world, the last, the present, and the future. I believe that if we were not capable, the dream of a more loving, kind, and compassionate world would not have ever found its life within us.

I will leave you for the moment with the words of Morihei Ueshiba once again —

“There is no place in The Art of Peace for pettiness and selfish thoughts. Rather than being captivated by the notion of “winning or losing,” seek the true-nature of things. Your thoughts (your words, your actions) should reflect the grandeur of the universe, a realm beyond birth and death. If your thoughts are antagonistic toward the cosmos, this thoughts will destroy you and wreak havoc on the environment… Always try to be in communion with heaven and earth; then the world will appear in its true light. Self-conceit will naturally vanish, and you can blend with any challenge.” (Para)

Act Accordingly…Shall we Begin?

Prayer

“For as long as space endures, and for as long as living beings remain, until then may I too abide to dispel the misery of the world.” — Shantideva

I Love You,

Seijaku Roshi

6
Sep

The Truth may be vital, but Without Love it is Unbearable.

“One of the chief tasks of our time must surely be to build a global community in which all peoples can live together in mutual respect; yet religion, which should be making a major contribution, is seen as part of the problem. All faiths insist that compassion is the test of true spirituality and that it brings us into relation with the transcendence we call God, Brahman, Nirvana, or Dao. Each has formulated its own version of what is sometimes called the Golden Rule, “Do not treat others as you would not like them to treat you,” or in its positive form, “Always treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself.” Further, they all insist that you cannot confine your benevolence to your own group; you must have concern for everybody — even your enemies…Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honor the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.”

— Karen Armstrong

I have felt lonely most of my life, but never alone. Since the early age of seven I have been convinced that none of us are ever alone even in the darkest moments of our lives. That conviction has never changed. I have always believed that The Universe was designed to work, that God or Dharma, Yahweh, Allah, whatever name you wish to use, was always near, that despite the darkness we may ever witness in our world it could not and does not exist apart from the Light which is within each of us. Thomas Merton wrote, “The fact remains that our task is to see and discover Christ in our world as it is, and not as it might be. The fact that the world is other than it might be does not alter the truth that Christ is present and that his plan has been neither frustrated nor changed.”

Having “felt lonely most of my life,” early on my salvation was found in seeking out “Community”. The more and more I was privileged to experience community with others, the more and more I became convinced that, “Community” alone was the salvation of the world. “Community is the Spirit, the Guiding Light,” a way out of this madness which has imprisoned humanity for much too long. No matter whether it be the teachings of the Dharma, the Torah, the Gospels, the Quran, all without exception culminate their lessons in “loving thy neighbor,” “loving ones enemies,” “being a refuge for the stranger,” “defending those who cannot defend themselves,” “ending poverty” as a moral issue and not just a circumstance of the times.
All of the teachings and great teachers have placed on the shoulders of each and every one of us the utmost responsibility of establishing the Kingdom of God; The Pure-land, on Earth the only way possible — by being “Community” for one another.

Einstein wrote that, “Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

Thomas Merton warns us, “To think that you will ever find your True-Self by barricading yourself inside your own world, shutting out all external reality…cutting yourself off from other men and women by stuffing yourself inside your own mind and closing the door like a turtle, is one of the worst illusions.”

For decades now we have been living in a culture of hyper-individualism and indifference to the suffering in the world other than ours. While today we are witnessing a new possibility, individuals and groups of individuals, who have chosen to no longer ignore the truth about suffering and its cause, or to isolate themselves from the world as it is, standing up, kneeling, placing their very lives on the line, their very bodies between themselves and the forces of greed, hatred, and indifference, there is still so much work to be done.

“We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity.”

After a lifetime of dedication to “self-fulfillment” and a society and culture which has promoted for so long “individualism” one should not be surprised by the difficulty this challenge brings with it. But the difficulty does not lay in the challenge itself but rather in the work that will be necessary to transform our world. After decades, if not centuries, of a culture of “greed, envy, and ambition,” often cloaked especially in todays society, in both religious and spiritual rhetoric, the work of transcending selfishness which is embedded in our very social structure, will always prove to be difficult. Nonetheless, whether one is religious, spiritual, or none of the above, if we fail to meet this challenge we will most certainly fail the test of our time. In so doing, conflict, national and global polarization, poverty, injustice, and the pains of countless and senseless wars will continue and compound.

Do Not Be Daunted

“The Talmud states, “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”

We must not allow ourselves to be daunted or distracted by the enormity of the work ahead, or by emotions which may, when indulged, persuade us to give up or turn back. Far too often the goal or objective is lost only because we allow ourselves to be distracted or daunted by emotions that can and will at times overwhelm us.

Confronting cancer every day of my life often leaves me with emotions and feelings that would have me give up. It is then, when I contemplate those who now also are dealing with cancer or some form of terminal illness. It is then I remind myself of the words hanging on my refrigerator door — “Never, Never, Never, Give Up”. Or I may reflect about my parents and their parents lives during the great depression and a World War; about the people of Europe during those wars, and the numerous senseless wars ever since and how they have left millions of people in grief, fear, and horrific living environments.

Whatever it takes to remain steadfast and committed to realizing and actualizing “our better angels,” and to creating a more enlightened society and a world for all its people and sentient beings — That dream, that hope, must always be held central in our minds and in hearts, in our words, and in our actions.

As the Talmud suggests, “We are neither obligated to complete the work, (we may not see the work completed in our lifetime), but we are neither free to abandon it.”

Please — Remain Steadfast, Upright, and no matter how difficult Never, Never, Never, Give Up. Remembering always “You are Not Alone — We are More Together Than Alone.” Our World is witnessing the rebirth of Truth, a vital Truth, one which will require all of us to Love and Support one another if we are ever going to truly bear it, and bring it to its fullest fruition.

I Love You,

Seijaku Roshi

24
Aug

Freedom

“In a time of domestic crisis men of good will and generosity should be able to unite regardless of party or politics. This is not even a legal or legislative issue alone…law alone cannot make men see right. We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the Scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution…One hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free. They are not yet freed from the bonds of injustice. They are not yet freed from social and economic oppression. And this Nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizens are free.”

— President John F. Kennedy June 11, 1963

Buddhism teaches us that, “Social injustice exists when individuals treat each other unfairly based on discrimination according to some socially constructed label (race, class, gender, age, language, ability, etc.) and/or systemic government practices and policies which directly or indirectly treat different groups unfairly (housing, health, policing, labor, voting, environmental, education laws).” The path toward correcting such injustices is the same path toward peace for the individual and all sentient beings. We cannot and will not have Peace-on-Earth until truly all men and women regardless of their racial, social, cultural, religious, or political identities, share equally in the ”Right to Life, Liberty, Equal Opportunity and Happiness”.

Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “Mindfulness must be engaged. Once we see that something needs to be done, we must take action. Seeing and action go together. Otherwise, what is the point in seeing?”
“The American monk venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi has also spoken of the need for Buddhist practitioners to engage in the world of social injustices as an extension of the Buddha’s teachings on social and community harmony (Bodhi).”

Anyone who identifies with “living spiritually in the world,” must understand that our very existence, the very meaning and purpose of our lives is, “To realize our inner divinity and manifest our inner enlightenment. Fostering peace in your own life and then apply the Art of Peace to all that you encounter.” The “enlightenment” of engaged acts of Loving-Kindness, Compassion, and Benevolent Service; of “Charity towards All and Malice towards None” is the means by which we establish a real and sustainable Peace on Earth.

It would be a grave error to consider the upcoming election in November as just another political election, a battle between two dominant and equally opposite political parties. Make no mistake about it, the election is a referendum, if not the most important referendum of modern times — “We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the Scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution…”What kind of world, what kind of society, do we want to live in and to raise our children in?

“The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated…We preach freedom around the world, and we mean it, and we cherish our freedom here at home, but are we to say to the world, and much more importantly, to each other that this is the land of the free except for people of color; that we have no second-class citizens except for people of color and the poor; that we have no class or caste system, no ghettoes, no master race except with respect to people of color and the less fortunate?” –(JFK 1963 para.)

Authentic Spirituality is “a journey toward waking up to a truth that releases everyone, not a chosen few, from suffering.” Once again as President Kennedy stated fifty-seven years ago:

“We face, therefore, a moral crisis as a country and a people. It cannot be met by repressive police action. It cannot be left to increased demonstrations in the streets. It cannot be quieted by token moves or talk. It is a time to act in the Congress, in your State and local legislative body and, above all, in all of our daily lives. It is not enough to pin the blame on others, to say this a problem of one section of the country or another, or deplore the facts that we face. A great change is at hand, and our task, our obligation, is to make that revolution, that change, peaceful and constructive for all. Those who do nothing are inviting shame, as well as violence. Those who act boldly are recognizing right, as well as reality.”

One hundred fifty-seven years ago since President Lincoln freed the slaves, the moral questions of life continue to challenge the very fabric, the heart and soul, of our Nation. Once again we are faced with a great opportunity, infinite potential, to once and for all “answer the call to freedom” not just for a chosen few, not just for the more fortunate, but for all sentient beings.

History has proven time and time again that, silence is complicity, inaction empowers evil in the world and, only when individual men and women who come together in unity of purpose resolved to right what is wrong in our world, has always proven to be victorious over tyranny and the many causes for suffering.

I Love You,

Seijaku Roshi

19
Aug

Daily Reflection 8.19.20

Meditation

To pull the metal splinter from my palm my father recited a story in a low voice. I watched his lovely face and not the blade. Before the story ended, he’d removed the iron sliver I thought I’d die from.

I can’t remember the tale, but hear his voice still, a well of dark water, a prayer. And I recall his hands, two measures of tenderness he laid against my face the flames of discipline he raised above my head.

Had you entered that afternoon you would have thought you saw a man
planting something in a boy’s palm, a silver tear, a tiny flame.
Had you followed that boy you would have arrived here, where I bend over my wife’s right hand.

Look how I shave her thumbnail down so carefully she feels no pain.
Watch as I lift the splinter out. I was seven when my father took my hand like this, and I did not hold that shard between my fingers and think, Metal that will bury me, christen it Little Assassin, Ore Going Deep for My Heart.
And I did not lift up my wound and cry, Death visited here!
I did what a child does when he’s given something to keep.
I kissed my father.
— The Gift, Li-Young Lee

Reflection

The last two months have been very difficult for me. Chemo-therapy has shown no mercy. Often I found myself responding to the pain with bitterness and resentment. By the time my next round of chemo arrived only yesterday, I found myself exhausted, not only physically but mentally as well. It is not an easy task to carry a backpack full of resentment or anger, or desire. I know so many people these days with and without cancer, who share with me their mutual experience. On Monday evening I sat in my bed anticipating Tuesday. I can’t tell you exactly what hour it came when I consciously decided to choose gentleness, patience, and gratitude, as the ground for my being no matter what came during chemo-therapy. I surrendered to what I believe to be yours and my “better angels”.

I woke up early on Tuesday and followed my usual routine but this time I started by taking into account my “first-light attitude”. I made some adjustments and left my bed. As I left the house and made my way to the car, I stopped to notice that the air was gentle, that there was beauty everywhere, I stopped to pray a simple prayer, “Thank You!” I got into my car and made my way down Route 70 to MD Anderson-Cooper, I focused my thoughts about those on the road with me. Where were they going? Were they in a rush or was this their choice? I eventually arrived at the hospital and as I regularly do I thanked the valet for taking my car; I greeted everyone I met with “Hello” and “How are you doing?”, I thanked the nurses who checked me in after checking me for a fever or any signs of COVID-19, asking them before I left, “Please take care of yourselves?” After retrieving my sandwich for lunch from the small cafe I made my way to the third-floor waiting room. Checked in. Waited. It wasn’t long before I was greeted by a nurse and ushered to my chair for the next four hours. All the while I could feel my cellular-memory warning me about what was to come. I took notice and took charge about what thoughts I would allow to join me during the day.

Gentleness is not an easy practice where pain is involved and yes with fear shadowing your every moment but, it is essential. In a world that appears to be marked by the opposite, when the opportunity to receive gentleness or to offer it arrives — it is “Gift”. As I have learned as a man and as a Zen monk, one cannot go looking for it, neither can one wait for it, it must be initiated, only then can it be recognized. Once initiated the moment becomes like a great closed iron door which suddenly opens and what one unexpectedly finds behind it, is exactly what one needs.

We can get lost in the news that the world is terrible, that the end is near, that the enemy is at the gates. But I can tell you after spending enough time traveling in “the valley of the shadow of death” — Angels live here too. That Christ was correct when he suggested that, “It is in giving we receive.” If you don’t want to go with Christ how about Paul McCartney, “And, in the end The love you take is equal to the love you make.” If you start at first-light determined to see them you will, you will see ordinary human-beings with wings — Angels among us. If you look around you, you will see them, in your home and in your neighborhood. If you look in the mirror with all the intention to see, with all the intention to bring gentleness, and patience, and gratitude for what you have rather than longing for what you don’t, you may be lucky to see your own wings. For I have become convinced that, “Angels” are not beings which exist apart from us while among us. That angels are merely a choice made by ordinary people, a way-of-being, in the world. Angels are known to arrive when something is needed, something is amiss. They show up to correct what needs to be corrected and to supply the missing.

“And I did not lift up my wound and cry, Death visited here! I did what a child does when he’s given something to keep. I kissed my father.” Yesterday I kissed the hearts of all those angels I met. I thanked God for the wings to fly above the pain and discomfort, not away from it, but above it. High enough to see that above the clouds which cover the sky and the ones which often cloud our minds — there is light, there is always light, and if you look you will see wings in flight.

Prayer

“I should tell you from the outset: this blessing will require you to do some work.

First you must simply let the blessing fall from your hand, as if it were a small thing you could Let easily slip through your fingers, as if it were not precious to you, as if your life did not depend on it.

Next you must trust that this blessing knows where it is going, that it understands the ways of the dark, that it is wise to seasons and to times.

Then — and I know this blessing as already asked much of you —
It is to be hoped that you will rest and learn that something is at work when all seems still, seems dormant, seems dead.

I promise you this blessing has not abandoned you. I promise you that this blessing is on its way back to you. I promise you — when you are least expecting it, when you have given up your last hope — this blessing will rise green and whole and new.” — Jan Richardson

May I be patient to wait, gentle to this moment, toward myself and everyone who appears in this moment, may I be grateful for the waiting and for the return. Amen.

I Love You,

Seijaku Roshi

30
Jul

Rely On Your Self!

During his final days the Buddha was committed that his monks and nuns fully understood what he had taught them over the past forty-five years. His final words included, “Rely on Yourself. Do not rely on any outside source. Rely on the Dharma. You are the Dharma.” What specifically did the Buddha want his monks and nuns to understand by these words. I have concluded that His final words, like all of his teachings, are as relevant today, especially during these most turbulent and uncertain times, just as much as they were during his lifetime. “Be the master of our minds, do not be a slave to our minds.”

“My disciples, the teachings that I have given you are never to be forgotten or abandoned. They are always to be remembered and treasured, they are not to be thought about, they are to be practiced. If you follow these teachings you will always be happy. The point of my teachings is to control your own mind. Keep your mind from greed, and you will keep your behavior right, your mind pure and your words faithful. By always thinking about the transiency of your life, you will be able to resist greed and danger, and will be able to avoid all evils. If you find your mind is tempted and so entangled in greed, you will have to suppress and control the temptation, be the master of your own mind do not be the slave. A man’s mind may make him actualize his Buddha-Nature, or it may make him be a beast. Misled by error, one becomes a fear-filled demon. Led by enlightened, one becomes a Buddha a free master of his or her mind. Therefore, control your mind and do not let it deviate from the right path.” {Be the master of your mind. Do not let the mind be your master} (Para)

Christ regularly reminded his followers to “Pick up your cross (suffering) and follow me.” He taught that God exists within us and that the Kingdom of Heaven was all around us. That what was necessary was to “practice what he preached by example”. Not just to believe in Him or His teachings but to “apply” those teachings by accepting that, “Life involves Suffering,” “Life is transitory” and that the solution for cessation from suffering was “practice” or “applying the teachings”. This is what I believe Christ meant by “real faith”. It had nothing to do with “belief” and everything to do with “following his examples”.

The Buddha says to us that, we alone are the bearers of our suffering and the solutions to our suffering. That whenever we rely on any other source for our relief or happiness, we will be disappointed. That, “Practice” was a “Way-of-Life” to be applied daily and regularly. He says to us that, “The teachings are not to be thought about, but to be practiced.” And, “The point of my teachings is to control your own mind. Keep your mind from greed, and you will keep your behavior right, your mind pure and your words faithful. By always thinking about the transiency of your life, you will be able to resist greed and danger, and will be able to avoid all evils. If you find your mind is tempted and so entangled in greed, you will have to suppress and control the temptation, be the master of your own mind do not be the slave.” Admonishing each of us he insisted that we, “Be the master of our minds, do not be a slave to our minds.” This would include our feelings, desires, and emotions. We understand that, “Having feelings both positive and negative, desires, and emotions is to be expected as human-beings.” The problem too often gone unrecognized is that our “feelings, desires, and emotions have us.” We are often unconscious that what is “running our lives” is the “master of our lives” which are our “thoughts about life, our feelings, desires, and emotions”. Enlightenment here, can be understood as a conscious-based choice to take back control of our minds and therefore take back the power over our minds and our lives.

The first step toward “Mastering our Minds,” is to see for ourselves how much our daily choices and priorities are based almost exclusively on “what we are thinking about life,” “what we are feeling in the moment,” and “what we are desiring.” Zen Master Dogen said that, “Zen is the study of the self.” He used the term “Zen” to mean the specific form of meditation used throughout the generations to achieve this awareness and enlightenment. In Japanese, we call it “Shikantaza” or “Just Sitting”. We take the upright enlightened posture, bring our awareness to a natural process of breathing in and breathing out, and we simply “observe”. Observe what? We observe what I often refer to as the “Bureaucracy of Ego”. We observe, taking no position for or against, thoughts as they flow into our awareness, feelings, emotions, and our reactions or desires. We sit as if we are watching all of this take place on a movie screen in front of us. Master Dogen went on to say that, “We study the self by forgetting the self.” By taking no position for or against the thoughts, feelings, emotions or desires, we “bear witness” and simply experience them in our bodies. We feel whatever is present and remain detached by following our breath as we breathe in and as we breathe out. A practice so simple yet proven to be the most difficult thing you will ever do; So we – Just Do It. Eventually, and no one can measure the exact moment, “This self I call myself” drops away and, “We are enlightened by the myriad of forms.” Dogen said. We remember who we truly are, we see the world as it really is, not the one we have created, and we begin to experience our True-Nature our Buddha-Nature.

Al the while as we make our way “back home” we need to be prepared to face a lifetime of unwholesome habitual behaviors which must be corrected. “The teachings are not to be thought about, but to be practiced.” We must confront the minds tendency to distract us from “the moment” by drawing us into a narrative which takes place in the mind and, is alway evaluating life, qualifying it, testing and judging it. We have responded to this distraction long enough that we have come to believe that the “narrative” is life when all the while it is an illusion, a fabricated translation of life. The Buddha says to us that in these moments, “You will have to suppress and control the temptation”. Next we have to be diligent to “Keep your mind from greed.” Often we think of greed as having to do with money. We are to understand that, “Greed” is any moment we find ourselves entrapped in the “habitual behavior” of comparing this moment to some other moment or idea about the way life should be. This is when we are being “driven by” desires for something more, something better, something different that what is in the moment. This is when the Mind is the Master and we are the Slave.


“If you find your mind is tempted and so entangled in greed, you will have to suppress and control the temptation, be the master of your own mind do not be the slave.” We consciously without criticism or judgment of ourselves notice the Bureaucracy of Ego at work, come back to focusing on our breath, breathe, and return to the moment just as it is and, “take care of business.”

Another tool the Buddha gives us is something like a mantra. He says to us, “By always thinking about the transiency of your life, you will be able to resist greed and danger, and will be able to avoid all evils.” When challenges and difficulty rises we remind ourselves, “This too shall pass.” Another approach is to ask ourselves, “Given the transiency, the impermanence of my life and the lives of those I love and wish to spend time with, is the investment of my time and energy in this desire worth it?”

“Brothers and Sisters, permit me to respectfully remind you: Birth and Death is the Supreme Matter. Everything, Everyone, is of the Nature of Impermanence. Gone. Gone. Forever Gone. Opportunity is too often Lost. Do Not Squander Your Life.”

“Be the master of your minds, do not be a slave to your minds.”

I Love You,
Seijaku Roshi

25
Jul

The End of The World – Is It?

There are those who say that the world is broken, on the verge of total collapse, dying, never to recover. Is it? Twenty-five-hundred years ago during the time of The Buddha, the world looked very much like ours today. Poverty was everywhere, even acceptable. If you were born into poverty it was considered your fate, your karma. You, as the generations before you, the generations that would follow you were condemned at birth to a life of hard labor, low class citizenship, often homelessness, and cultural and social discrimination and racism. Nations were regularly at war. By nations I mean family clans who claimed that they, not others, were rightful aires to the wealth and power available at that time and were wiling to do to others whatever was necessary to gain it. Don’t even talk about pollution, to this day the Ganges or Ganga River, considered the holiest sight in India, is also where human waste and other waste is deposited, and where lower class citizens gather water to bathe in and drink.

In this environment The Buddha was born, raised, and eventually would set out on his personal journey for “enlightenment”. Later on, on the day of his enlightenment he would declare that, “The world is perfect and complete, including its myriad forms.” Twenty-five-hundred years later the late Dr. Wayne Dyer would say something similar, “Everything is perfect in the universe – even your desire to improve it.”

On Tuesday of this past week I was rushed to the ER At Cooper Hospital in Camden NJ by a friend of mine. It would not be the first time, I prayed it would be the last. Later I would be admitted and learn that my “lobster-like appearing” body which felt completely on fire was caused by a condition called “Neutropenia”. My body was having a horrific reaction to the current chemotherapy I had received exactly one week ago. My WBC, RBC, and Platelets, had all dive-bombed. My Blood vessels were dilating and my fever was off the wall. I was admitted and for next 48 hours, “waited” until my body would heal itself. All the doctors could do was “treat the symptoms caused by my body reacting to the chemo”. By Thursday I would recover well enough to go home – A most welcoming prognosis. During this experience yes, it felt like my world which included cancer for nearly twenty-five months was indeed coming to an end. It felt that way. It felt real. But something inside me as it had for all those months reminded me that what felt as if my world was ending, was just “another reaction to a horrific detail of my life’s current circumstance”.

I often say to the students of Pine Wind Zen Community, “You need to be able to tell the difference between what you’ve brought with you, and what you have picked up along the way.” Also, “What is often referred to as the real world, and the universe, is really ‘the world mankind has created, you need to look much closer to see the real world.” The world we witness daily on cable news is not that world. It is, no matter how difficult we find it to admit, it is “The world we have created”. What is before us are “symptoms” of a cancer which entered our worldly body timeless centuries ago. Currently we need to be treating the symptoms until we are willing to look close enough, courageously enough, audaciously enough, and with a great faith in our ability to see and treat the real causes of the cancer.

I have come to understand “cancer” in its many forms well enough to know that, you can’t just cut some of it out, you can’t just treat some of the body. You must treat the whole body and surgically remove all of the cancer, for there to be any possibility for real healing and renewal. The process is time consuming, requiring skill and sacrifice, and regularly painful. It also requires all parties to be willing to fully participate in applying the cure.

I did not enjoy what was happening to my body these past few days anymore than I look forward to chemo-therapy every other week. But my training as a Zen monk has enabled me to take the right position. To maintain “right attitude,” for example, life or the cancer doesn’t care about the narrative running in my head about how much “I hate this.” In one of his teachings Wayne Dyer wrote, “The way to a peaceful life is to notice the perfection in God’s world and in ourselves, and nurture that perspective.” So I practice dropping my attachment to the present narrative and “look for the perfection in God’s world,” and “nurture that perspective”. Looking for something, is different, from denial and, replacing the existing narrative with some idealistic dream for life. It requires a willingness on my part to see first what is really so and, to see beyond that to what is also so.

Whenever I have found myself in the hospital with and emergent situation, I purposefully make it a point to forget the limitations presented by my own pain or discomfort and deliberately engage with everyone coming into my room to participate in my healing. “Hi, how are you?” “How are you doing?” “Please take care of yourself.” The “perfection” I have found over the past twenty-five months and most of my life is the loving, and compassionate care others are so willing to step up and give to strangers. Not only does this practice benefit me but, in emulating these Bodhisattvas behaviors, no matter the circumstance, no matter the situation, no matter how I am feeling, gives back to our sick and wounded world the medicine it needs.

As I sat in the ER waiting to be admitted I witnessed so much of the suffering of strangers. At one point I thought of Christ on the cross after a lifetime of witnessing the suffering of his day, and now witnessing his Mother’s and family’s suffering as they bear witness to his own. I was caught by the vision of a Mother bringing her paraplegic son into the ER for help while trying to comfort his panic and pain. How patient she was with him, how present to his needs and, not what had to be present in her, perhaps her own fear, anger, and resentment. Then there was the Lesbian couple, the one partner in so much pain and perhaps fear, perhaps it was the symptoms of an already diagnosed condition, which caused her to shake and bolt uncontrollably. I watched her partner doing all that she could do to forget herself in order to bring some comfort and assurance to her love. Her care for her friend which required so much patience was a mastery to envied.

We are not living in a world which is broken. It is we who are broken, we who are on the verge of total collapse. But we can and we will recover, just as we have in times past. But, is “recovery” all we really need or want? Is it time? Is it time for a complete healing of ourselves? Is that what we want? Is this what we need? Or do we need to “bear witness” to the suffering for a little while longer until we “really get it”? Or, as a dear friend of mine use to say, “Enough is enough and too much is plenty.”

Since the day of my diagnosis I have had only one intention, “To stay alive. To conquer this cancer,” so that I may continue to be a Father to my daughter; a son to my Father; a sibling to my Sister, and a fellow Zen monk with my brother and sister monks working together, to bring about the healing and renewal of our fellow human beings. Those I know and those who appear as strangers. For as often as I visit Cooper Hospital and MD Anderson for chemo, the fog which creates the illusion of separateness becomes clearer and clearer each time, and I can only see my brother, my sister, in pain just like me, filled with hope, and courage, and the audacity to trust in life and its miraculous ability to remain alive against all odds.

There is a popular saying which has risen out of the current pandemic situation, “We are all in this together.” If that true, or if it is ever going to be fully true, we must remember that the “body” infected by this “cancer” centuries ago, is in “All of us together.” We must remember that healing cannot be focused on just the few. It must be inclusive. Including those who oppose or disagree with us; Those complicit in spreading the cancer, either by their own ignorance, greed, and indifference. We have to, we must, change the conversation to really mean, “We Are All In This Together.” Or, I promise you, I’ll bet whatever money I may have, We Are Truly Destined to Only Recover and To Never Really Heal – To Repeat History Again and Again.

I have both written and spoken about “The Gift of This Cancer”. I have learned so much more in the past twenty-five months than in all the forty-five years of my life as a monk. The gifts it has given me in the lessons I have learned remain immeasurable. It has helped cut through my own ignorance, leaving me with a vision of my fellow human beings and of the real world which has left me with great faith that while we are the co-creators of the history of mankinds suffering, we are also the co-creators of the medicine required for full recovery and complete healing. All that is required for us to begin the healing process, is understanding the words of Albert Einstein, “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” And, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

We need a different conversation, one that comes out of being “In This Altogether”. One of “family” though estranged yet still related. I will not claim to know how to get there. I cannot rewrite what history has already written. I cannot change anyone who does not wish to be changed. I can only change myself and I as do with an open and faithful heart, I do believe, that in some unexplainable mystery, me, you, whenever you and me do, somehow we change the world.

I am in this with you and, without a single doubt, I believe in yours and my ability to bring about the healing of each other and all of Nature.

I Love You,

Seijaku Roshi

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