For many years prior to retirement, I was a city planner and what was called a neighborhood specialist in Florida. My focus was on neighborhood visioning and developing master plans to assist people in prioritizing improvements and deciding what should come first. This always seems to be the biggest challenge. Finding the motivation to see beyond themselves to make a positive imprint on their neighbors and neighborhood. Recognizing past difficulties and understanding underlying contradictions that were inhibiting factors to improving their lives.
The key was always that they needed to take ownership and see beyond themselves and the boundaries of their properties in which they lived. Creating an environment of inclusiveness and joy. That they had a responsibility to the world beyond themselves. I liked my job because it allowed me to convey to others what should be done and help them find the path to do themselves that would include everyone, what we called stakeholders. To find a pace and dignity of transformation beyond just themselves to what someone once told me befitting the sacrament. To what I would say to become one with whatever one does as the true realization of the Tao. As we pay attention only to the present moment.
While open to debate over the centuries, the practice of engaging in zazen, i.e., sitting meditation, is essential for most people. However, some feel that it depends on where we are on the path to enlightenment. Some need the structure and discipline only zazen can provide. Others are beyond zazen. This is where the path of natural attainment leads us. It is like needing to know how to unlock the door and the door unlocks simply by our presence. Nothing else is needed.
Your presence is zazen… This realization generally comes after years of meditation, both sitting and actualized by who we have since become. You do not need to sit to arrive somewhere – because you have moved beyond the need as your presence illustrates. What you are here to do dictates the role the universe has laid out for you to play. It is a moving beyond the beyond thing of the Bodhisattva vow that is always in play. If you accede to the role of a teacher however, zazen reminds us of our origins, grounds us, and remains essential.
Over time, meditation and mindfulness have shown us the way as our actions simply reflect us. As well as the openness to change. That true joy is moments of internal peace, love and goodness, openness towards others, and to the world. That our well-being and happiness come from our state of mind. Phakchok Rinpoche’s “In the Footsteps of Bodhisattvas, Buddhist teachings on the essence of Meditation”, following the teachings of The King of Meditation Sutras, give us the structure to follow. References to seated meditation, what many refer to as zazen, are often referred to as the chapters unfold below. This series continues to follow the path of the Bodhisattva’s role in history and what we should consider as our own. Additionally, I am not an expert, simply someone opening doors to my own enfoldment and showing in as broad strokes as possible the way for others.
“The person we are from nine to five is not who we are from five to nine”.
Moving to the freedom of expression as we express the flow of the cosmos that speaks through us that is essential to eternal awakening. Not only for ourselves, but to the awakening of all. With Zen it becomes moving from thought to action as we find our own footsteps. It’s like moving beyond reading a book, to becoming the book. The practical application of what the Bodhisattvas does when they do nothing but be themselves. When vision, mission, and purpose merge as you are transformed with a spiritual awakening and develop a master plan, a positive path for living within the spirit.
This is the power of the Buddhist sutras and teachings of Lao Tzu coming into action through us. Values through virtue as we emulate both the Buddha and the Tao by and through our actions as we are to become the continuation of the story.
In the footsteps of Bodhisattvas – 3 Renunciation.
Key thought: Renouncing who we are not along with our resolve to practice samadhi – the ultimate meditation and mindfulness. What every shaman and holy man/woman has known and conveyed for the sake of eternity… to live in divine order simply through our eternal presence.
- To renounce is to give up something or put aside voluntarily, to repudiate or disown that which does not define our bliss and journey, and in gaining freedom.
Picture from the Jade Buddhist Temple in Shanghai
- With renunciation in our hearts, we go to a place of solitude. We open wide the door to bliss to a greater space to shape positivity and contentment. In solitude we have fewer distractions to practice the Dharma and to liberate ourselves. Finding the keys to this liberation should be our intention. We do this so that we may open wide the door to bliss to a greater arena to create benefits and positivity in the world.
- Chapter four of the Sutra tells us the nature of phenomena and how our re-birth comes about, as well as the benefits of nirvana. We are to continuously cultivate a loving mind; always keep pure discipline; take joy in training, exerting yourself, and to practice generosity and wisdom. To consistently discard unvirtuous friends while looking to spiritual masters is also important. With this you will have no difficulty in obtaining the samadhi.
- We are to understand and encompass the Foundational Vehicle of the early Buddhist traditions that emphasizes physical renunciation of worldly life. We are to by our nature have less attachment, with this we have a better chance of realizing the truth. If you have many things to do you cannot focus on the Dharma. It is a fact that wherever you direct your attention is where you gain success. Ultimate success comes with finding and carrying out the role we are here to play within this context.
- Whereas in the Great Vehicle, renunciation has to do with acknowledging that samsara is like a dream and the ultimate truth of emptiness. This is where we learn an understanding that ultimately you never die and are never born and that you would never find the actual essence of things even if you were to search for them for centuries.
As the name implies, the Mahayana came to think of itself as “great” both in its interpretations of the Buddha’s teaching and in its openness to more people, especially lay people. This was especially helpful in integrating into early China and a synthesis with Taoism that eventually led to Zen in Japan. The word yana means vehicle or raft, which evokes the image of Buddhist teaching as a raft or vehicle that can help one cross over the river of suffering to the “other shore.” The Mahayana is, thus, the “Great Vehicle.”
- With this, attachment to whatever we find in our worldly encounters becomes obsolete as there is nothing we are to be attached to. As we grow through study, reflection, and meditation, we encounter this ultimate truth directly.
- When we learn and can appreciate our role as bodhisattvas, we can leave behind karmic effects of our activities because we can take the ultimate view of who we are and understand the role we are here to play. This is due to positive and negative effects of both our previous actions and those of others.
- When we claim our freedom in keeping with The King of Meditation Sutra in the tradition of Mahayana Buddhism, we are renouncing clinging to ourselves and to substantiality altogether to gain the liberation that allows us to benefit others. As we acknowledge that there is no separate, individual, or independent interest.
The power of Zen has always been freedom. Adapting the best attributes of Mahayana Buddhism, the teachings of Lao Tzu, and Confucius, to develop a synthesis that seeks to find the best path to follow based on transformation of where we find ourselves. To internalize Zen, you must assimilate all three.
There is a calmness that the Dali Lama refers to in saying “Buddhist ideas can be helpful in equipping our minds and emotions so that we can maintain peace of mind when we are facing difficulty. Too many worries and too much ambition are bound to increase suspicion and jealousy, leading to even more mental disturbance.”
- The important thing to understand is that non-attachment has nothing to do with withholding love from our families or abandoning our responsibilities to them. In the Mahayana teachings, practice focuses on inner conduct, our motivations. That on the Bodhisattva level, non-attachment has to do with the mind.
- Renunciation means abandoning those things which inhibit our freedom. In thinking about ultimate freedom, we discover that meditation is learning how to be present and aware of what is going on and to distinguish between our judgment about a moment in time and the actual experience.
- It is important that you keep in your thoughts and heart that you want to achieve awakening for the sake of all beings. This is the essential meaning of renunciation. The moment you recognize there is ultimately nothing to abandon is when you find genuine freedom and non-attachment.
- Chapter seventeen of The King of Meditation Sutra tells us that the Bodhisattva is to be untarnished by the eight worldly concerns, their body remaining pure and their actions immaculate. They have few desires, firm contentment, and no attachment. They possess the Buddha’s qualities. This refers to the qualities about a Bodhisattva, the great practitioners, who have advanced on the path of awakening.
- Success in the practice of samadhi (meditation and mindfulness) is intimately connected with our conduct. Proper conduct improves our ability to gain meditative insight. Conduct means the way we deal with the eight worldly concerns which are the desire for fame, praise, happiness, and material gain. Conversely, the wish to avoid insignificance, criticism, suffering, and loss. Reflecting on the Tao reminding us of the interconnection of study, practice, and experience.
- Our worldly concerns and feelings always relate to aversion, attachment, and ignorance. It is how we see past these eight worldly concerns and these three feelings that demonstrate our progress in abandoning desire.
I like to reference the book, The Snow Leopard, mentioned earlier with identifying with going up the Himalayas years before modern life caught up with what was there. When it was still natural and pure ever-changing, but constant just the same. With no real destination as if a pilgrimage to no place important except what you see and find along the way and returning just the same… It was the oneness and purity of the snow glistening in the sun and becoming a part of it if only for a moment that made the trip worthwhile.
To the left… my view of the Himalayas from the window of the plane flying from Chengdu to Lhasa in October 2018. I looked up while reading The Snow Leopard again prior to arriving.
- It is through the spiritual world and our dedication to meditation we acknowledge that desire always brings pain. Monitoring and keeping a check on these feelings and desires we can internally follow our practice on several levels. These are the view level, the motivation level, the meditation level, the conduct level, and the fruition level. We practice samadhi by evaluating our renunciation by asking ourselves “How much of ego clinging still resides in my life?”
- Keeping check on the level of our practice is to observe the following:
2) Motivation level – Looking inward to see what motivates our practice.
3) Meditation level – Adhering to samadhi, we look to how distraction and dullness is present during our meditation evaluating our ability to apply the cure, or antidote, to overcoming these difficulties.
4) Conduct level – We check the strength of our mindfulness by our actions that guard against the eight worldly concerns outlined above.
5) Fruition level – Do we have great hope to achieve realization, or fear of losing it.
It is proceeding to what will be the result within this aspiration that defines our genuine approach to fruition. When we ask ourselves as the result of the above, am I maintaining the state that is free from attachment? It is the ability to do this that determines the fate of our practice.
- What is to come of our ultimate aspiration? The paradox for many is that we cannot practice the path without detaching from the desire for fame and respect. Or if you subscribe to the notion of seeking praise or gain.
- It is here that we must acknowledge and observe our underlying motivations and contradictions as we seek to move forward with enabling our ultimate connection with the universe – to our highest aspirations. Our spirituality cannot become the tool by which we feed aversion and attachment. We monitor this by observing our own actions and emotions and our response to them.
- By not seeking praise and remaining in a sense of self-depreciation, we illustrate our keeping with the essence of our intended practice. Chapter 22 of the Sutra reminds us “Whoever does not have excessive attachment to this hollow life and limb has vanquished the host of maras and will reach awakening at the foot of the Bodhi tree. The body is empty and selfless, and life is a dream, tremulous as a drop of morning dew”.
The Bodhi Tree or Bodhi Fig Tree (“tree of awakening”) was a large and ancient sacred fig tree (Ficus religiosa) located in Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India. Siddhartha Gautama, the spiritual teacher who became known as the Buddha, is said to have attained enlightenment or Bodhi circa 500 BCE under it. In religious iconography, the Bodhi Tree is recognizable by its heart-shaped leaves, which are usually prominently displayed.
The proper term “Bodhi Tree” is also applied to existing sacred fig (Ficus religiosa) trees, also known as bodhi trees. The foremost example of an existing tree is the Mahabodhi Tree growing at the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya, which is often cited as a direct descendant of the original tree. This tree, planted around 250 BCE, is a frequent destination for Buddhists. (description and photo from Wikipedia)
- It is important to rise above our thinking as our emotions display our ignorance. We are to work with our minds so that our habits are continually refreshed. When we reduce our thinking, habits have difficulty in gaining a foothold in our thoughts. It is here we learn simply being present is enough.
- When we focus on integrating renunciation, meditation, and compassion into our thoughts and actions leaving behind samsara, it is important that we have learned the true meaning of detachment. Buddhist teachings may be difficult to absorb into our daily lives, but that is precisely the point. The key has always been our ability to change to meet the challenges we face as our highest endeavor.
- It is when we recognize that every action has consequences and that every action that occurs in the present is a result of something that has occurred in the past, that we can understand karmic effect. We are not to try to diminish the laws of cause and effect, but to use them to affect the proper way we proceed with our lives.
- We are to learn the meaning of sharing in the merit of the Dharma by inviting others to practice generosity and connecting with virtuous activities, we can further discover through our own meditation and mindfulness living without discrimination.
- Learning the benefits of renunciation is a key ingredient to both our virtuous activities, practice, and getting to the meaning of things. That we are to reduce our desire and judgment, have correct discipline, and not engage in unnecessary debate. We do not praise ourselves or criticize others, we are to decrease our attachments, check our anger, and reduce our material concerns. With this, our presence will materially come to light for others not with our ego – but through our actions we shall show them.
- The Buddha’s teachings on renunciation is a form of self-compassion and how we are to become free.