“Breath is the bridge that connects life to consciousness, the bridge that unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh…

As we find ourselves at home again with both awareness and emptiness. Floating away or dispersing as the remnants of a cloud before sunrise over Huashan Mountain in Anhui Province.

It has always been our breath that connects us to the eternal as we learn to embrace selflessness. What in China for thousands of years has been referred to as our chi and to what Li Qin says connects our heart/mind to our spirit. Into something called the mystic… vibrations reminding us of origins, the unknown, and becoming transcendental to what Indigenous peoples the world over have always known. Continuing the thread of what inspired Alan Watts with our relation to the Tao and Mahayana Buddhist it seems each moment becomes a teaching moment. Both for us and those we encounter with whom we leave an indelible or lasting impression. It was this respect for the Tao that Watts used to teach as if we are singing our own song in tune with the universe. To recognize our role with the flow of nature and stay within it and know more about life than people can see. To live the life we sing about in our song that carries the burdens of the day as we are inspired and lifted by those who came before us.

What does it mean for us to use the Tao to reconcile sociability with individuality, except to further define the role we are here to play? To live in spontaneity with divine order as our eternal calling and find unity with diversity as the meaning of life.

Alan Watts died before completing the final two chapter of his last book, Tao – The Watercourse Way. It was completed by his wife Mary Jane Yates Watts and Al Chung-liang Huang. For me, it was one of his best books as it served as a kind of retrospective of Lao Tzu’s continuing influence, and how he and Taoism were to influence the human story. Creating the path, or way, Buddhism was able to latch onto with Taoist principles the core, the mainstay that enables the flow… with Chuang Tzu’s help history’s take on things. Why references to the influence of Taoism and Lao Tzu are so essential.

Lao Tzu’s Furnace on Huashan Mountain made famous in the book The Monkey King for its pill of Immortality.

Beyond simply elixirs and “pills of immortality” to a path that would lead to the ultimate freedom of man’s spirit. It was to be Buddhism’s take that was to have the final say.   

Mahayana Buddhism as illustrated by The King of Meditation Sutra, Lao Tzu, and others below in completing Chapter Seven, is representative of the continuing eternal journey we all take together. Many of Alan Watts thoughts on Mahayana Buddhism that were included in 7A will be added as we proceed with 7B. Alan Watts and Lao Tzu always seem to want to say more on the subject.

In the footsteps of Bodhisattvas – 7B and walking with awareness

Key thought: Evaluating ourselves with constant mindfulness of our actions. Alternating between compassion and illusion. Living within a first-person account of patience. With patience motivated by our desire for inward and outward peace and by faith in our ability to accept things as they are. In Buddhism patience has three essential aspects: gentle forbearance, calm endurance of hardship, and acceptance of the truth.

  1. We further define our role by walking with awareness. Regardless of what you have learned, without correct discipline you cannot be protected from stray thoughts and the hypocrisy of others. Walking the walk of enlightenment, not just reading the words, and agreeing that they convey the truth we are to follow but living in the truth of awareness.
  2. With the Tao and the Bodhisattva vow, simply knowing how to be disciplined will not keep you from acting impulsively. We begin to emulate compassion and wisdom by aligning our actions with our highest endeavors. It becomes you as there is no rush. There is confidence in that there is nothing that is stopping you. Keeping to the open road as we gain merit is seen as the only path worth traveling.

I also reflect on Hua-yen Buddhism, a school of Chinese Buddhism based on the Flower Garland Sutra and is a tradition of Mahayana Buddhist philosophy that first flourished in China during the Tang dynasty.

Buddhist carving from Chongqing National Museum

What it says about a small act of giving that has repercussions in an interdependent and interconnected world. According to this tradition, one small act of charity (dana paramita) is said to be equal to countless acts of charity. No one can measure the effects of a single act of giving, for its repercussions are beyond our limited imagination. 

  1. It is the company we keep that helps to determine our path. If we associate with those who possess compassion and wisdom, then we too gain aspirations aligning with our peers. Discipline helps to create divine order that keeps us from veering into delusion, and our keeping commitments in doing so. What could be more important than our awakening to supreme bliss as we refrain from activities that disrupt our mind.

In my review of the Flower Garland Sutra, I found it is not widely known in the West, yet it has had a profound and lasting impact on the way Zen and Chan Buddhism are practiced. The heroic Bodhisattva most prominently featured in the Sutra is Samantabhadra, whose name means “universal virtue.”

Often depicted riding an elephant, Samantabhadra, with his calm dignity, specializes in performing devotional observances and in artistic, aesthetic expressions of the sacred. He also resolutely practices the Bodhisattva vow through accomplishing many varieties of helpful projects, each aimed at benefiting all beings and engaging the societal systems of the world. As a result, Samantabhadra can serve as a great encouragement and resource both for artists and for modern “engaged” Buddhism and its renewal of Buddhist societal ethics. He is often associated with practice and meditation in Buddhism.

  1. There comes a moment when stabilizing our minds ensures that we do not break our vows. When we have focused on mindfulness and meditation, then discipline become the natural outcome as we return to and reflect on the value of emptiness and freedom. With the ultimate freedom the freedom of our minds giving rise to the qualities of virtue and wisdom. It becomes easy to mistake remembrances as imagination when our imagination is the key to our not repeating mistakes and adhering to the correct path.
  2. When we can see our activities as following pure conduct as exemplified in the five aggregates that make up sentient existence and our conscious experiences to be empty and selfless, as described in Chapter 39 of The King of Meditation Sutra, then our vows cannot easily be broken. This becomes the key to understanding selflessness wherein every moment is an opportunity to engage in self-cultivation as we in turn practice releasing negative emotions.
  3. The dharma teaches us that we should not become obstacles to our own practice, inner vision, and enlightenment as we in-turn release these negative emotions and habits. Buddhism refers to negative emotions and habit as mara and the problems associated with clinging to one’s ego and fear. Practicing emptiness and the discipline of maintaining the correct view is how we deal with mara.
  4. Emptiness has always been inexpressible and free from characteristics… something naturally pure. The Mahayana teaches that from the beginning everything is peace, the Bodhisattva who sees this knows the truth. Something we all will come to understand. It is the acceptance of emptiness when we see that phenomena by its nature do not exist. They were never truly born or cease to exist.
  5. They simply take on a different form over time. All things have impermanence without substantial existence. It is the spirit – the mind that continues. Meaning we never truly are born and never truly die as we accept the selfless nature of phenomena. This becomes what can be said of the ultimate freedom.
  6. To know freedom, we must adhere to all the elements of the path focusing on emptiness and wisdom. How is it we realize this through assembling the conditions for proper practice, engaging in generosity, keeping our discipline, clarifying our view, and training in meditation? This becomes the ultimate defining moment of our acceptance of the elements of the path. We soon learn that others not on the path cannot be held to the same account. Why remaining empty to that found in the mundane world becomes essential to our peace of mind.
  7. This is the key to acceptance of selflessness. Where are we… This review of both Buddhism and Taoism with an effort to understand the meaning and purpose of Zen, is both to enlighten and motivate us to become our true selves. Acceptance and acknowledgement of something we do not understand is the first step to wisdom. We are now in Chapter 7 of “In the Footsteps of Bodhisattvas – Buddhist Teachings on the essence of Meditation” and the concept of reincarnation was inevitable.
  8. Three thoughts going forward are consequences, discipline, and merit. The strength of understanding all this is gaining an appreciation for emptiness. Why the concept of meditation and preparing our minds become central to the essence of who we are. It is in this moment we become free. The Bodhisattvas adhering to wisdom loses attachment to those things of little or no consequence. He will not experience aversion, ignorance, be free of objects found in mara, and he maintains the pure world of the Buddha.

That ultimately its not pills or potions depicted at Lao Tzu’s Blast Furnace near the West Peak of Huashan Mountain. Or the scriptures that insure immortality. It is recognizing and acceptance of our own innate divinity. That the realization of emptiness and selflessness is beyond expression as what we see is only an expression of our mind.

  1. When we free ourselves of illusion our ability to look back to beginnings and see all phenomena as if a dream becomes apparent. It becomes the essence of where meditation and mindfulness (samadhi) take us. It is where the discipline found in structure leads us as we leave samsara behind. Discipline will always be the caveat that has the final say in the timing of our ultimate arrival.
  2. It is often said that viewing our disposition of what we see in the mundane world begins to change as well. The perception we have of our own role is that all phenomena become nothing but our own reflection. With judgment and appearance as visual defects we do not see actual substance of mind – but when our disposition changes, we see the external world change. Our disposition determines our view of the world.

26. Chapter 9 of the King of Meditation Sutra relays the many attributes of the Bodhisattvas. By not perceiving phenomena, they have no attachment, anger, ignorance, or wrong view. Meditation is not something simply to do, but who we have become as the natural extension of our presence. Having discipline, wisdom, knowledge, merit, and many other characteristics with our minds liberated by true knowledge. Problems arise when we return to the negative “I or ego”. When the benefit of “no I” is to be free from fear and negative emotion. For many Bodhisattvas, maintaining this discipline becomes the starting point for truly beginning to help others.

  1. Maintaining discipline is the key to enlightenment, thereby making meditation simply the vehicle that opens us to the sky. It becomes how we define suchness, our ultimate connection with the universe.
  2. To natural luminosity transcendent of definition of what may define us. To characteristics beyond description or appearances that can be describe. Beyond doing to being as things simply naturally occur in your presence. Your surroundings only the essence of nothing.

 

By 1dandecarlo

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