“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”.
We are witnessing today what many people have never known in their lifetime, and others have known but may have never learned anything from it. Life includes impermanence, uncertainty, and disappointment. No matter what they have told you, or what you may have read, this is true for all of us, including those who pay attention to that which is often referred to as “spiritual”, and those who don’t. The quintessential question of any authentic spiritual practice is not whether there is a God, or whether we reincarnate or go to heaven, or whether or not I can attract the objects of my desires. The “right question” as both Jesus and the Buddha spent their lifetime teaching is, “This is so for the Christ and the Buddha, this is so for you also. Then how does one navigate their life through this paradoxical reality?” Both Christ and Buddha demonstrated in their lifetime how one does this masterfully.
Living a Zen-Inspired Life is about the question of human suffering and the resolution. How do we resolve the matter of suffering so that we can get on living our lives fully? Twenty-five hundred years ago the Buddha said, “Life is Suffering” (The First Noble Truth). I can remember the first time I spoke those words before an audience. Most of the people were not satisfied with that Truth. They would explain to me, “Well it’s not all suffering, there are good times, fun times, isn’t there?” Of course there is. But, if you never resolve the matter of suffering in your life, you will never fully appreciate, or even enjoy, the happy times. Until then even the happy times are suffering, because once they are over, and they always are, we are back to craving or desiring their return, and that’s suffering. I offer this for your consideration, “What is the origin or cause of suffering?” “The origin of suffering is attachment to transient things and the ignorance thereof. Transient things do not only include the physical objects that surround us, but also ideas, and in a greater sense all objects of our perception. Ignorance is the lack of understanding of how our mind attaches to impermanent things. The reasons for suffering are desire, passion, ardor, pursuit of wealth and prestige, striving for fame and popularity, or in short: craving and clinging. Because the objects of our attachment are transient, their loss is inevitable, thus suffering will necessarily follow. Objects of attachment also include the idea of a “self” which is a delusion, because there is no abiding self. What we call “self” is just an imagined entity, and we are merely a part of the ceaseless becoming of the universe.”
So whenever we find ourselves attached to some object, person, or idea, about ourselves or the world, there will be suffering. The Buddha said that the cause of suffering is ignorance (The Second Noble Truth). We take for granted the mind at work ceaselessly, every moment of everyday and ignore first, having a clear understanding of how it works and then, living accordingly. We often make all kinds of excuses for our suffering to avoid responsibility. What we fail to understand is again, the transient things in life can never resolve the matter of suffering. They are coming and going. Only I can resolve the matter of my suffering. The way any problem resolves itself is first to acknowledge you have one. Living a Zen-Inspired Life teaches us that not only do I have a problem but only I, have the solution.
Science teaches us that where there is a “cause” there is an “effect” and a “solution”. The Zen-Inspired Life looks to the Third Noble Truth taught by Buddha, “There is cessation from suffering.” It is possible to live a full life and to experience contentment despite all the difficulties and challenges life throws at us. What immediately follows is the Fourth Noble Truth. Cessation from suffering is a function of a very specific “way-of-life”, (Eightfold Noble Path). “Suffering can be overcome through human activity, simply by removing the cause of suffering.” What the Buddhist refer to as “Nirvana” is the resolution of the matter of suffering in life. Nirvana is realizing our ability to live freely from the effects of all worries, troubles, complexes, fabrications and ideas. Certainly there is a time for “worries”, “trouble”, and “complexities” in life, as there is for everything else, however we can realize our inherent capacity to live life with the fullest vitality despite all that. What the Third Noble Truth also teaches is that cessation is not the absence of problems and difficulties in life, it is how we hold them and respond to them that makes the difference. It is what I define as “Freedom”, “The ability to remain content and self-confident no matter the circumstance or the situation.”
So as I mentioned earlier, Zen and/or The Zen-Inspired Life is a specific way of living life (The Fourth Noble Truth), which empowers and enables us to meet all the challenges life throws at us with “all victorious mastery”. This very “specific way-of-life” the Zen-Inspired Life is a path of gradual awakening to who we truly are, our inherent capacities which, we are either not aware of or spent a lifetime ignoring, questioning, doubting, and then living our lives accordingly with a clearer understanding as to what “life” really is, and with a sense of purpose and direction.
At Pine Wind we refer to this as “training or practice”, because it involves a daily “devotion to perfecting whatever it is we are doing.” To “train” is very much like an athlete in training. First he or she finds them self a coach or teacher; then conforms to certain rules of training that have more than likely been “well-honed and proven to work”, and begins to make the required changes in their “lifestyle” in order to achieve “victorious mastery”, which wins the gold. These changes result in a “change” of one’s experience of themselves and the world around them. What one may have thought not possible is proven to have always been possible.
It was always there, it just needs to be cultivated. After Michelangelo created “David” which stands beautifully in Florence Italy today, he was asked “how”. He explained, “I go to the quarry looking for the right stone, I begin to chisel at the stone until “David” appears. You see he’s already in there, all I do is strip away whatever prevents him from being alive.”
Zen trainingis about “stripping the layers” of conditioning over the years away one does not need, most of which one has never needed, until one is alive. I often tell my students, “If you do not know the difference between what you came with (birth), and what you have picked up along the way, there are no possibilities.” So as I mentioned earlier the first step to any real change and possibility is to acknowledge there is a problem. That is when most people come to Pine Wind. My role as the “Teacher” is not to tell them how to live their lives, but to give them the tools for realizing first, there is another way of living that really does work and has worked in the lives of millions before them, and in the lives of millions today. Second, to help them recognize the causes of suffering in their own life, and to again give them the tools to strip away the layers of conditioning, ideas about themselves and the world, beliefs and delusion, that have kept them stuck inside the rock. Finally, that all the wishing for their lives to change has never worked and never will, including looking for “secrets”, “shortcuts”, “blaming”, “shaming”, or “magic”. The only thing that can change any one’s life is first the desire to change and then action. Changing has always resulted in Change!
Finally, the foundation for Living a Zen-Inspired Life is this timeless declaration first made by the Buddha, “All Beings are already Enlightened, are already Buddha.” Then by Christ when he said, “The Kingdom of God is within you.” You just need to discover it (experience it) for yourself. Then nothing will ever be the same, and everything will.
I Love you,
To Learn More About The Zen-Inspired Life Training at Pine Wind Zen Center