Buddhism and Zen are at first to many like a foreign language. To a sense of suddenly understanding everything as if you feel, or have, a sense of harmony or unity with the universe. To the place where consciousness becomes synonymous with the infinite. Going there can only be a matter of faith where death becomes nonexistent, to a purpose in life as a continuum we have not seen or known before. My own belief is that there is a part of us simply waiting for patience to arrive to go there. Beyond any thought of what may be considered spiritual. We think of spirituality involving a search for something greater than ourselves as if shared vibrations, for meaning and purpose in the universe. The same as the ancient shaman bringing forth the wisdom of the ages and cosmos to light the way for themselves and others. With our role to put this genius into our lives.
The Double helix is the description of the structure of a DNA molecule. A DNA molecule consists of two strands that wind around each other like a twisted ladder. Each strand has a backbone made of alternating groups of sugar (deoxyribose) and phosphate groups. Perhaps simply illustrating the commonality and genius we share and already possess that nature continuously builds upon.
I like looking at history, especially in China because of more than four thousand years observing the universe, i.e., the stars above have brought a continuity of what is cause and effect and nature’s response always looking forward to it all. Like trying to see things in a different way, perhaps in a new light. To what the Tao teaches us. To ideas of creativity and even divergent thinking. Seeing old ways of thinking and the importance of reconciling complementary opposites as the key to longevity. Perhaps that is why we are here. To see how things have converged over time and shaping them again in a new way. Coming up with the correct answer to problems that have only one answer. To see how the same thing can be seen, and people can reach far different conclusions. Maybe this is the ultimate in Zen: that divergent thinking has always been the essence of creativity.
One might argue that some of humanity’s most creative achievements have been the result of convergent thinking, even Newton’s recognition of the physical formula underlying gravity, and Einstein’s recognition that E=mc2.
Albert Einstein, for one, went to his grave convinced that the theory had to be just a steppingstone to a more complete description of nature, one espoused many years earlier by Emerson. That everything is a part of and connected to something else and is never-ending. One that would do away with the disturbing quirks of the quantum as the deterministic reality that obeys the laws of relativity. In effect, what he is saying is that all life, and all things, are a continuum from one thing to the next. Understanding that flow of energy was his life’s work. He was – and continues to be – a great teacher. When we say that someone will be missed when they die, we forget the essence of all things because they will always be with us when we look for them.
It is the essential, albeit eternal quest of seeing beyond ourselves, both to the past that defines a starting point as if re-entering the flow, and steps leading to an outcome that takes us there as well.
Something that caught my attention on a signpost at the Lama Buddhist Temple in Beijing was a description of what is known as trantric Buddhism and what is called “the eight protectors”. These come from the combinations of the Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches. Twelve Nidanas (Nidanas are based upon the Four Noble Truths, the Twelve Nidanas are the primary causes which when set in motion by an individual result in the ongoing continuity of the cycle of birth, death, and re-birth according to the Laws of Karma), Earth, Water, Fire, Wind and Emptiness that generate the twelve Chinese zodiac signs with the blessings of eight Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
For thousands of years, the eight protectors have been worshiped to make people lead a fortunate, healthy, secure, and happy life. On the Sunday morning I was here, there were hundreds of people burning incense, giving personal offerings, and paying homage to this ideal and doing their best to embody this common flow of energy.
For myself, this divergent thinking and creativity almost passion, always points to China. As in past years when trips to China began with what would be a sense of sacred journey, visits to the National Museum, White Cloud Taoist Temple, and Lama Buddhist Temple in Peking (Beijing) always first on the list as if getting my mind focused again this time. Buddhist temples and museums in Lhasa, Chengdu, Xian, Luoyang, Nanjing, Chongqing, Shanghai and so many more, going there, giving me a sense of both permanence and impermanence. As if a constant sense of belonging, but not staying or standing still just the same. The journey becoming easier when you know who you are with the destination not seemingly as important as remembrances of who and what you encounter along the way. With old friends always present along for the ride.
To the left, the White Horse Temple is a Buddhist temple in Luoyang in Henan Province that, according to tradition, is the first Buddhist temple in China, having been first established in 68 AD under the patronage of Emperor Ming in the Eastern Han dynasty. The site is just outside the walls of the ancient Eastern Han capital. The temple is considered as “the cradle of Chinese Buddhism”. Luoyang was the ancient capital of several dynasties in China for more than a thousand years.
With Taoist mountains, temples, and monasteries, always on the agenda, and of course living and teaching in Qufu, the home of Confucius and fulcrum or pivot where my friends and trips to the countryside with students always leading the way. Always lying in wait for their turn in future chapters. The stories never getting old and their repeating always finding the nuances that make them worth re-telling. As if home once again sitting, laughing, and enjoying a bottle of plum wine with old friends. This is the essence of joy, living and dying, and meditation for me.
Reminded just now of an old friend, Li Bai, who drown on a lake after drinking too much plum wine. It is said he tried to lasso the shadow of the moon as it rippled across the water and fell out of the boat he was on… Following is an example of the writings of the famous Taoist poet Li Bai, who in 740 AD wrote:
Thousands of feet high towers the Yellow Mountains
With its thirty-two magnificent peaks,
Blooming like golden lotus flowers
Amidst red crags and rock columns.
Once I was on its lofty summit,
Admiring Tianmu Pine below.
The place is still traceable where the immortal
Before ascending to heaven made elixir out of jade.
Now you embark on your journey there alone—
The purpose of joy and importantly mindfulness… to rise a thousand feet in the air and to join Lao, Chuang, and Lieh Tzu and returning home again. Where only virtue resides as a forgone conclusion. Catching the prevailing wind and seeing again what lies ahead as the ultimate endeavor and destiny. It is only a matter of catching the flow of eternity that defines our bliss and finding the comfort that describes us, to always be found simply coming and going. What could be more real?
Just as what previously occurred in Chapter 4, Chapter 6 is getting too long with too many stories to tell. So, I am dividing into 6A and 6B, while still generally following the ideas of Zen and using the King of Meditation Sutra, Lao Tzu, and path of the Bodhisattva and sage as the guidepost. Chapter 6A continues below with numbers 1 through 11, 6B is next with numbers 12 through 23. As mentioned previously, the text is numbered to aid as points of discussion. Often the word I is referred to as below. This is not intended as the personal I, or just myself. It is meant as the I am that is endowed with universal oneness that aides in our seeing our connection to all things, beyond ego. For myself, it is where my travels take me. It is our dharma, our eternal connection with and to the cosmos.
In the footsteps of Bodhisattvas – 6A / I am blessed in samadhi.
Key thought: I am blessed in samadhi – as meditation and mindfulness assist in re-making my conduct my thoughts remain universal. With this I am one with loving-kindness intent on developing a quiet mind and sincere heart with blessings secured.
- The question becomes how far can I travel from where I now sit as I honor those who came before me? How do I utilize my own creativity to move beyond the sense of the known and what is taken for granted, to the unknown needed for the journey ahead?
- Truth be told, we are here to personalize, not generalize as we are to discover our ultimate role. For myself, I think of the stupas one encounters at the Palata Palace in Lhasa that serve as reminders of our ultimate path. That our highest aspiration is to become one with all things, as the representation of the enlightened mind.
- To show respect for the path we now travel, we are to illustrate rightful observation of both our original nature and the nature of the environment that surrounds us. We begin by establishing opportunities to create merit and assembling attributes that further or lead to our awakening.
- To show respect for our path, we need to resolutely observe our thoughts and actions to ensure our dedication to our enlightenment that awaits us. Aligning our mind with virtue and placing value on truth.
- The ultimate aspiration to acquire and relay dharma vision this time. As the Taoist would remind us… we are to embrace the One and observe the Will of Heaven. To be infused with the heaven of pure qi, for who we have always been. The Tao always referring to that which is beyond heaven, earth, and the ten thousand things. With attending to oneself, our own awakening the ultimate attribute. (page 188 The Way of Complete Perfection)
- Knowing this, how is it we are to make the ultimate offering? What can our own merit look like while remaining generous with our respect that gives us the opportunity to continuously align ourselves (both our mind and actions) with virtue. To practice our Bodhisattva vow.
- We should remember that it was the realization of the need to make offerings that was the trigger for the Buddha’s own awakening. Giving praise to Buddhas past and present give rise to our own path and significance that aid us in our awakening, practice, our own mindfulness, and meditation. What some might call respecting our elders.
- What is it we are attempting to gain, but truth? Why reflecting on and learning from the King of Meditation Sutras and so much more serve to give us tremendous merit. When we place value on the meaning of truth, to what I call an understanding of the process, we learn to praise the qualities of the Buddha we incorporate into what we call our practice. Why most people assess their relationship as a “practice” and not a “religion”.
I am reminded of the cliffs and Longman Grottoes home to more than one hundred thousand carved images of the Buddha than I visited a couple years ago east of Xian and west of Luoyang. Luoyang, the capital of ancient China for more than a thousand years and the hub of the spread of Buddhism at the end of the Silk Road. From here it would be south to the Shaolin Temple and to the northeast Peking, now Beijing.
One can only imagine the words Auṃ maṇi padme hūṃ being spoken with every strike of the hammer and chisel. It first appeared in the Mahayana where it is referred to as the “innermost heart”. In this text the mantra is seen as the condensed form of all the Buddhist teachings. The first word Aum\Om is a sacred syllable in various Indian religions. The word Mani means “jewel” or “bead”, Padme is the “lotus flower”, and Hum represents the spirit of enlightenment. Auṃ maṇi padme hūṃ… Four words to take us there with merit. They also appear as shown here outside Drepung Monastery in Lhasa.
- Ultimately, the question becomes to who and what are we giving merit too? Is this something that already exists we are trying to find outside ourselves we are drawn to, something eternal that is pre-existing within us already we are trying to connect or re-connect to that will show us the way, or third this cosmos driven entity that is our birthright we have always for eternity known – and will continue to know. The question the shaman has had from the beginning with knowing glances to the stars… and what is to become of our own continuum – our own role?
For the Buddhist, the guiding principle has been described thoroughly in Chapter 19 of the King of Meditation Sutra that describes the Tathagata. Over the centuries, commentaries on the meaning and clarity of Tathagata has grown as our experiences have multiplied. How we get there from where we are and coming into accord with merit.
Tathāgata is defined as someone who “knows and sees reality as-it-is” and means literally either “the one who has gone to suchness” or “the one who has arrived at suchness”. It is said to be just as the footprints of birds (flying) in the sky and fish (swimming) in water cannot be seen, thus (tātha) are those who have realized the Truth. He does not waste the roots of virtue. So many words have been used to describe him as the teacher. Foremost at the time of this writing is that he is the guide for those who just set out on the path. So much more… Tathagata is the word the Buddha used to describe himself after attaining enlightenment.
- We proceed with the sense of having received blessings from our many ancestors and “forever friends” who continue to play an important role in our enfoldment. With this understanding we are to proceed with our role understood. Our encounter with Tathagata is but a reminder of our purpose… we are to be a teacher.
- To not simply read both “new and old thoughts” but become one with the universal flow we must first excel as the student. First as you recall who you have always been. Your general countenance and smile illustrate you have it – the ultimate gift and bliss of yourself – your presence. Giving expression and offerings of merit to show the way.
(12 through 23 of Chapter 6 continues with the next entry here on The Kongdan Foundation website).