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August 9, 2017

Shall We Begin?

by Seijaku Roshi

“The key to the path to enlightenment lies in the seekers motivation, and a single minded devotion: apart from which, no enlightenment.”

Every year since 1985 it has been a tradition that on the first or second week of September, depending on how the calendar falls, the Monks of Pine Wind and the truly devoted gather for the annual period of Zen Training known as “Ango.” It is essential that prior to beginning, both the monastery and the “seeker” is prepared to begin. A period of reflection should precede training, wherein a conducive environment is established both within the walls of the Zendo where the monks and the truly devoted will train, and within the hearts and minds of each person.

Not too long ago I wrote, “Apart from transformation their can be no enlightenment. Apart from renunciation their can be no transformation.” Webster defines “transformation” as, “a thorough change in form, appearance, nature, or character.” (It is written that when Moses descended the Mountain, and Jesus resurrected, even those who knew them for a lifetime did not recognize them.) Spirituality was never meant to be a supplement for life but rather, a means toward a complete transformation, a kind of metamorphosis. We cannot and will not ever know the faith and freedom of the butterfly for example, unless we undergo our own metamorphosis, discarding what we have come to believe we are, in order to become who we truly are.

So much of what is accepted in our modern culture as, “Living spiritually” or “Being spiritual,” has too often been a preoccupation with appeasing or gratifying what the wisdom of the ancient masters, prophets, and sages, identified as the source of our suffering or dissatisfaction. False promises and teachings continue to lead people to believe that spirituality has something to do with “comforting” this “false self,” often referred to in psychology as well as science and zen as “ego.” The spiritual practices, including meditation, yoga, and mindfulness techniques, and especially the schools which teach how to channel energy (chi), have been falsely represented by some as a means or a “secret” to accumulating material wealth, achieve financial success, and even “attract” the right lover or career. When this is our motivation it’s what Richard Rohr describes as, “Just rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic, which is going to sink anyway.”

Webster defines “renunciation” as, “an act or instance of relinquishing, abandoning, repudiating, or sacrificing something, as a right, title, person, or ambition.” Monks and the truly devoted understand this to mean, “The ways of the world including, greed, resentment, and indifference or folly.” We train in living spiritually in the world to “awaken from a lifetime of ego-delusion,” not just to feel better, live comfortably, or enjoy the riches of this life which eventually rust and decay. It is not the finite and conditional world of “impermanence” we seek to be grounded in, but rather we need to discover and make our roots in that which is infinite, boundless, and unconditional.

Morihei Ueshiba, in The Art of Peace writes, “You are here for no other purpose than to realize your inner divinity and manifest your inner enlightenment.” Likewise Teilhard De Chardin writes, “You are not a human being in search of a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being immersed in a human experience.” Their words define the meaning and purpose to train in living spiritually in the world. We have forgotten our “true-self” and in order to “realize our inner divinity,” and “manifest our inner enlightenment in the world,” we need to remember and to train as, “spiritual beings” while “immersed in this human experience.” Spiritual training and the practices are designed for this and only this singular and exclusive purpose. When we train in the ancient ways, we nurture the ground for Wisdom to surface within us and awaken our “true-self,” a natural transformation can happen, and what emerges from that cocoon is a “real human-being,” a Buddha, able to, “proceed as though the limits of their abilities do not exist.”

Entering Zen training can be compared to “recovery.” The teachings tell us that the cause for our dissatisfaction is “ignorance”. We have forgotten who we truly are and live our lives as “imposters,” “actors on a stage,” and need to “awaken” from our amnesia, in order to remember who we truly are. The first step in any “recovery” program involves “admitting we have a problem,” or we cannot proceed. Likewise the first step in “renunciation” necessary for transformation, involves recognizing that the “Surest way for us to continue to experience dissatisfaction is to keep living our lives the way we always have.” Nothing happens without a cause. The present is informed by the past, filled with a lifetime of perhaps unhealthy habitual behaviors, ways of thinking or point of views, which create our current experience of this moment. The Buddha taught that, “We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” Renouncing old ways of thinking and point-of-views of ourselves and our place in the world, a different vision surfaces naturally which begins to inform our experience anew. What follows is “training” the mind-body in the ancient ways that transform, nurture, and strengthen us to meet the challenges of a world informed by the same ignorance we once informed by also. We adopt a new way of living, new point-of-view, new behaviors, which result in new and once only imagined results. The Buddha taught that, “To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.” In disciplining our mind-body, we discipline our behavior including, our choices and our decisions. We are able to “proceed as though the limits we once perceived of our ability do not exist,” only to discover, they don’t.

Shall we begin?

I love you,
Seijaku Roshi




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