What is it with the flow of universal thought and energy that has come before us? In our meditation and lives, it is as if it remains ever-present both with and as us. Perhaps unseen and seemingly unknown, but with us just the same. Guiding us, while we give others a taste or view of the present. Re-defining our role in the moment as if they are here pushing us to enter and stay with what is to become of our highest endeavor and destiny.
While we ask who are they… and ultimately who are we yet to become? Once we catch glimpses of past reflections and the legacy we are here to follow, our path is made clear as if looking through a glass door or window. Looking both inward to what we are here to make of ourselves, and outward to the flow that carries us with talents we may not yet perceive we have been sent to use on the cosmos behalf. Who is there to say otherwise?
We are often told that in prayer we are to listen to the still small voice within. Whose voice are we listening to but our own divinity that is here to guide and define us? One of my most favorite authors is Leo Tolstoy. While he was the author of two books that made him famous, War and Peace and Anna Karenina, he had an immense hunger for knowledge of where things begin. He read and studied extensively about philosophy – both Eastern and Western, and as a linguist, a student of language, he learned that many of the translations of biblical texts for the previous four to five hundred years were not in keeping with the original intent of what the meaning was meant to portray. It made him wonder who and what these translators were listening to in monasteries throughout Europe that was to define early Christianity and what would become the building block that followed. Who is it that defines the divinity we are to follow? What could be but illusion if based solely on self-interest and what is to be made of this karmic flow our spirit becomes attached to?
Tolstoy’s writings changed history. He had read Emerson and man’s ultimate role from his lectures and studied Buddhism, Hinduism, and Lao Tzu. His pacifism on following the path of non-violence was instrumental in guiding Gandhi in India, and later MLK and “good trouble” that was to be defined into the 21st century by the likes of John Lewis. He not only captured the universal flow of divine energy and purpose but defined it in such a way that others could follow. Always with more questions than answers as if handing off to others who might better express what needs to be said.
It is this flow that brings us back to Phakchok Rinpoche’s “In the Footsteps of Bodhisattvas, Buddhist teachings on the essence of Meditation”, following the teachings of The King of Meditation Sutras, that give us the structure to follow.
References to seated meditation and our own presence, 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. Why this returning continually to the role of the Bodhisattva? Because just as with the wisdom of the sage in Eastern thought and universal philosophy espoused by the likes of Tolstoy, there is no separation as it is representative of the same source of creation.
In the footsteps of Bodhisattvas – 5 Gaining spiritual confidence / As we recall our eternal legacy.
Key thought: Connecting with our spiritual mentors. Living or staying within the material, or mundane world, does not suit our ultimate purpose. If our mindfulness is not continuous; we are not building good samadhi [concentration]. It is momentum that improves and makes whatever we do easier; it allows us to grow.
- You gain spiritual support by relying on the realization of those who came before you. Of what they knew and what you now know going forward. The Taoists, Lao, Chuang and Lieh, and Buddhist Maitreya and so many more like Tolstoy above, who you have known and followed as prevailing destiny and history over the millennia. Meditation nothing more than following the spiritual confidence you have always known.
- Who are our mentors we choose to follow once they awakened us to the task at hand. With focus now on practice and reminders of the proper way so that we and others may follow. Why the Buddhist wherewithal towards prostration, circumambulation, and supplication (petition or prayer) to connect to the Buddha again as if the first time that blesses the earth once more becomes essential.
- History not only repeating itself but rhyming as if reminding us of the ultimate role we are here to play. Not just the explainer, but to first internalize the wisdom again. Reminded again that prostration is an ancient way of demonstrating respect in and for ancient cultures and traditions. Circumambulation a word seldom heard, but representing the Buddha’s body, speech, and mind dating back to the time of the Buddha himself.
- With Maitreya and Chuang Tzu – with his ideas of the role of the “Perfected Man”, seemingly the key to coming forward putting things in context understanding the Buddha’s intent that would become Chan and later Zen. Perhaps with our role to see the world through their eyes connecting with the wisdom of eternity.
Just as Maitreya saw the world through the eyes of Buddha thereby giving us the same opportunity. One of your mentors you have chosen to follow with Chuang Tzu the benchmark that connects everything together. It’s not enough to simply be the conveyor of the story, our role must become much greater.
To the left is an ancient Taoist Chinese talisman invoking one’s mentors through the ages to come forward to assist you in your endeavors. On rare occasions Taoist Fu writings have also been found on Buddhist numismatic amulets as well.
- You proceed as if they are here with you guiding your path. Maybe just to visualize and for metaphors and similes for the purpose of speaking and writing in a certain way as the doorway showing appreciation and expression. Awakening unquestioned with eternal blessings assured… with thoughts of the power of the Buddha’s samadhi and Maitreya’s training and receptiveness to change always assured.
- With Lao and Chuang Tzu never far behind adding context to the journey for what would one day be called Zen. People of the mundane world do not comprehend the way of the sage. Ordinary human beings who do not follow the Tao are all like this. Those who awoke to the Tao in ancient times, adepts with rare fluency, were extraordinarily different. However, people of the mundane world are attached to what they see, making distinctions between high and low. (page 190 of The Way of Complete Perfection).
- Spiritual practice works best when your mentors are present and here with you. For myself, often in meditation or visualization, this involves going to join them as well, or them joining me. Freeing ourselves from earthly restraints… moving beyond samsara to the enlightenment we have often glimpsed but failed to realize as a reminder of our ultimate purpose.
- It is with this spiritual support we acknowledge that what we encounter is small stuff. That we are to cultivate the certainty found with Shakyamuni Buddha, Lao Tzu, and others. That just as with any obstacles we find, they would simply smile and move on. It is in unveiling and connecting with this wisdom – with what we have always known as the constancy of our own innate demeanor that should guide us.
- By remaining present we are to gain confidence in knowing that we are the manifestation of all those who have come before us. This is not a singular thing, but the journey we all take. It is as if the universe is calling us to seek our highest endeavor. The more we reduce ego the higher our ultimate aspirations can propel or take us. Recalling that it is our presence that defines our future and living up to our legacy in joy with outcomes secured.
Tolstoy referred to here in the beginning was struck by the description of Christian, Buddhist, and Hindu ascetic renunciation as being the path to holiness. Thus writing… Buddha Shakyamuni was born a prince, but voluntarily took to the mendicant’s staff; and Francis of Assisi, the founder of the mendicant orders who, as a youngster at a ball, where the daughters of all the notabilities were sitting together, was asked: “Now Francis, will you not soon make your choice from these beauties?” and who replied: “I have made a far more beautiful choice!” “Whom?” “La povertà (poverty)”: whereupon he abandoned everything shortly afterwards and wandered through the land as a mendicant. (Schopenhauer, Parerga and Paralipomena, Vol. II, § 170) A mendicant is a member of any of several orders of friars that originally forbade ownership of property, subsisting mostly on alms.
- It is in entering the natural flow of meditation that we gain a sense of openness and peace, of presence, and goodness. With this we learn not to run away from difficulties but how we are to overcome them instead. Meditation practice should be how we live that one just flows into naturally – this is known as receiving blessings. With practice becoming our continuing presence.
- We carry these blessings everywhere we go. We align our thoughts and mind with those we follow who were/are our teachers, thereby gaining realization of our identity. By recalling them, we reflect on their qualities that we impress on our own minds. Just as we recollect time spent with loved ones who are now deceased.
In Xian at the Home of the Eight Great Immortals in Taoist Chinese History. Much more on the significance of the Eight Immortals in later entries. As myths and legends, they portray our highest aspirations as examples of Taoist ideals and what connects us in the simplest terms to both heaven and earth.
The same feeling that I encounter traveling throughout China to various Buddhist and Taoist Temples and Confucian historic sites where simply my presence honoring those who came before me is blessing not only me, but those who might see themselves through my writing.
- The same with Lao and Chuang Tzu as their words seem always to be with me. Chapter 8 of the Tao Te Ching reminds us, “The highest goodness is like water. Water is good at benefiting the ten thousand things because it has no need to compete with them. It resides in places where people avoid. Therefore, it is close to the Tao”.
- Something similar occurs when we visualize awakening with the wisdom of the Buddha always present. We see meditation as moving beyond the mind to freedom and bliss to confidence as we move through spirit. As with Zen, we learn that if you long for perfect living and practice that equates with what comes naturally, we cultivate discernment by accumulating merit, i.e., virtue by alleviating poverty and relieving suffering by the example we set for others.
- What is important is we see a coalescing of the heart/mind described in Tao, with practice that moves beyond the mind as we continue to walk the path. Buddhism sometimes sees the need to effectively block or undermine the mind, while Lao Tzu lets the mind wander the Tao with virtue.
- Softening the edges of the mind and making it malleable seems to be the key. When we ask in practice for help in quieting our mind through solitude, supplication, and prayer in meditation, we are asking for the intervention of wisdom beyond the current state of our mind.
- We should not practice forgiveness; we should simply forget and move on. Without needlessly worrying ourselves because we have already released the wrong. Forgetting is much more important than forgiving as attachment to the past often remains.
- We are not to hold onto or remain attached to wrongs of the past. A major aspect of growth centers on our ability to not internalize the sense of being a victim giving rise to the experience of total purity as our actions, speech, and mentality begin to reflect going forward not looking back.
- You cannot release something by holding on to it. We receive blessings by letting go of thoughts that act as anchors keeping us from spiritual awakening. By admitting wrongs and releasing ego we become open to what the universe has planned for us. As if a test simply waiting to be passed. It is here that most all blessings flow.
- Your smile and attitude convey the eternal connection with the universe you have always possessed. Use it! Replace anger with a smile and knowing enthusiasm. Strive only to become one with the light of eternal wisdom as your birthright. Purify all negative karma and experience this through our practice as our actions, speech, and mentality reflect the radiance of gratitude, love, and vision for all sentient beings.
- We can see this with an observation of how the Taoist translates Buddhist intention or insight on meditation expressed as five kinds of vision in line with our ultimate aspiration:
1)The vision of those who possess a material body (human),
3) The vision of wisdom by which Theravada adherents observe the thoughts of impermanence or emptiness (Theravada),
4) The vision of dharma by which bodhisattvas perceive all teachings to lead all beings on enlightenment (Mahayana), and
5) Buddha vision or omniscience (having a sense of the infinite). (page 187 of the Way of Complete Perfection)
- Like Maitreya, we should ask the Buddha to bless our minds and place of practice as we continue to follow in the footsteps of bodhisattvas before us as relayed in The King of Meditation Sutra and elsewhere. We should acknowledge our mentors continued presence in our endeavors as we in turn develop spiritual awareness and confidence.
- It is how we develop spiritual confidence that is important. We begin by purifying all negative karma that has accumulated over time. Chapter 4 of the Sutra reminds us that we must believe we are being blessed to receive blessings. This means recognizing that the Buddha is the embodiment of immeasurable wisdom through the process of the Bodhisattva as you live by and through this vow.
- Keeping our mind in the present is key to gaining confidence with both loving-kindness and compassion as an awakened mind is essential. Keeping this confidence “close to the vest”, so to speak, gives us the sense of love and wisdom coming from our peers.
- This is not to create a sense of judgment or that somehow, we are better than others. It is how we are to replicate the vow of the Bodhisattva that empowers us to proceed. It is how we train in both the spiritual and technical. What I can do and practice every day applying aspects of the path, that we practice both the dharma and way of the sage.
- The key to longevity is attaining blessings and merit, and retaining spiritual confidence in the dharma, as our eternal journey continues acknowledging that the wisdom of our mentors is ever-present. I continually receive many blessings as the Buddha, and Lao, Chuang, Lieh Tzu, and other mentors throughout time, are always present. I am never alone. As I continue to receive their blessings and transform into the dharma, the Bodhisattva and knowing sage, my writing is emblematic of what they would be saying at this moment and do so through me. With this, I proceed…