What is it we give our attention to but our conscious awareness and presence we nurture and have always possessed?

Finding joy with just who we are…

What can conscious thought be, but confidence with attention that later becomes our intention? As our intention permeates the vibrations of our eternal presence. Mindfulness is about understanding who we are and moving to our highest aspirations of endeavor and destiny. When you walk in mindfulness, you are in touch with all the wonders of life within you and around you as if all life is a miracle.  This is the best way to practice, with the appearance of nonpractice. You don’t make any effort, you don’t struggle, you just enjoy walking, but it’s very deep.

“My practice,” the Buddha said, “is the nonpractice, the attainment of nonattainment.” In what the Taoists and Lao Tzu, would call wu wei. As if walking beyond the present moment to both what is known and unknown. Finding joy just the same.

Unconcerned with what final destinations look like. In faith of the unknown we proceed with assurances beyond a practice defined in physical and religious terms. To what I like to call “as if living your life beyond the beyond”. Coming to terms with who we are is essential first. Using wise thinking and counsel from our mentors to decide how to handle life’s events, as you cannot limit yourself to continuously being unaware.

Consciousness may never arise – or simply appear as a spark as the universe demonstrates its own presence through the nature of things. Awareness always seems to entail the ability of gaining confidence and knowing what one knows reflecting divine order and to act accordingly. As the Bodhisattva vow permeates our actions and world.

When we speak of mindfulness we generally infer “conscious thought”, perhaps what some may say is known as “having an institutional memory” of past events that help to guide us or assist in taking us there. It becomes the starting point for our imagination combining real and unknown based on what then becomes possible. To what some may refer to as “moving with or in faith”. This ability forms the basis for what we take to be the most direct indication of awareness to where nothing begins or ends. To a continuum we seek that ultimately defines both us and all things. The answer always lying in understanding contradictions of life’s true nature.

When we observe the absence of this knowledge involved in our decisions, we conclude a decision was based on unconscious knowledge. As something we believe to either be true or not true outside or external from ourselves, even to what is thought to be known, but as yet is unknown. We sometimes direct our attention and thought towards assessing the contents of our experience. The resulting consciousness involves a re-representation of consciousness in which one interprets, describes, or otherwise characterizes the state of one’s mind in the present. If mind connotates spirit or one’s soul, from where does conscious thought derive and this awareness ultimately lead?

Karmic wheel at the Sera Monastery in Lhasa, Tibet. The bhāvacakra is a symbolic representation of samsara (or cyclic existence). It is found on the outside walls of Tibetan Buddhist temples and monasteries in the Indo-Tibetan region to help people understand Buddhist teachings. (I took this picture in October 2018 while in Lhasa).

In studying Zen, and the role of both the sage and Bodhisattvas, why is the above discussion important to an understanding of what is consciousness, but the continuation of spirit, our eternal essence or presence? Timeless and constant we travel through the universe with our entry defined only by “how and where do we go from here”. What is our ultimate role and where does this understanding and path take us. We go forward almost as a pivot. As a commentary of what we know that is important in showing the way for both our own enfoldment and others. Putting things in our own words. What is important must pass through us as we put into context what it means through us. We capture a word, phrase, or sentence as if we have just been waiting for its arrival. Taking nothing for granted until it goes through you to see if it fits your own intrinsic innate eternal nature. What is the circle of life, but what moves us beyond where we now sit that further defines our presence?

Mahayana Buddhism as illustrated by The King of Meditation Sutra, Lao Tzu, and others below in Chapter Eight, is representative of the continuing eternal journey we all take together. The chapter is divided as with previous chapters into 8A and 8B. Chapter 8 includes numbers 1 through 15. Chapter 8B that follows will include numbers 16 through 30.

In the footsteps of Bodhisattvas – 8A Gaining confidence as our conduct must exhibit motivation as our aspirations align with the teachings we choose to emulate and follow.

Key thought: To gain the confidence to live your life correctly and courageously as the teachings of the Buddha and Lao and Chuang Tzu dictate.

  1. Remaining empty with discipline to be filled only with compassion as we endeavor to be free.
  2. Chapter 7 of the Sutra tells us to release all anger and to meet others with compassion with this we begin to learn patience that gives us the confidence to practice correctly. It is as if the Sutra is telling us “If someone is taking you where you want to go, just pick up your feet.”
  3. Our conduct must be an offspring of our motivation endowed with compassion and free from clinging to old ideas that inhibit us on the path to freedom. As we ask ourselves, does our meditation and our aspirations align with the teaching of the Buddha and Lao Tzu?
  4. Our study should be on-going. Our practice is how we live, not just that found on a cushion. Always open to learning something new from the old way’s others lived and what they followed that inspired them to become their highest endeavor. We gain inspiration through their vigor, their patience, and the purity of their motivation. Also, to acknowledge that they too were not perfect. As they strived to move beyond their own human imperfections.
  5. Within the transformative process we are to forgo sentimentality for the present, as if understanding the demeaner of antiquity. As we in-turn acknowledge our past. To something the sage and shaman, and we, have always known. Recalling that both the Tao and Buddhism teach that desire brings both ingenuity and error and with emotions come difficulties.

Embracing virtue, the essentials found in the Tao, protects what is called our life destiny as we are to maintain an unagitated heart/mind in our relationships with others. (page 195 of The Way of Complete Perfection).

  1. This view is essential in recognizing associations we have gained over eons of time as relationships that further our eternal growth and development. That we are not alone in nurturing our endeavors as we are to assist in facilitating the growth of others. Over time this ability to eliminate thoughts of self-interest, as promulgated by Buddhism and other paths have shown thinking and acting only with ourselves in mind, is not the proper path we are here to follow. With this, in practice of samadhi, our presence focuses on meditation and conduct that are interrelated with our view, compassion, and patience.
  2. Focusing on emptiness allows us to be in constant readiness to take the next step to awakening that brings us back to compassion and patience. Remaining empty to be made full again with thoughts and actions of merit our agenda. It seems like the only commonality among people and things found in nature begin with compassion, finding our bliss and knowing with correct understanding what takes us there.
  3. Compassion in Buddhism means everything should be found on the same equal footing. Again, all things found in nature just want to be happy and maintain their place and role in the overall scheme of things. It is this that brings forth the intrinsic sameness found in all things when we have the patience to recognize this truism. Just as our teachers are those who convey and transmit the Dharma, i.e., the intrinsic virtue that connects all to the cosmos.
  4. Finding ourselves on this path leads us to ask what is our next step? Chapter 18 of the Sutra conveys that we must perceive all buddhas and bodhisattvas as our teachers. Also, those who brings or delivers these teachings of the Dharma as our teachers as well. With experience as a teacher, I know that to prepare to teach, you must thoroughly know your subject. As the starting point, we must acknowledge and become comfortable with the equality found in the world of impermanence. That all things change to become something else. It’s not complicated, we only make it so due to ego and who we think we are that in all reality is simply illusion.

Without attaining the true transmission of the utmost Tao, what is most important will become empty and fleeting and you will lose what is real. If you are only concerned about craving and delusion and do not wake up, you will float and drown in the dream of ephemeral life. Reincarnation will not have a fixed limit. How then can you become free of life and death? Get rid of this and ardently seek out a great person, whose sincerity is extended, whose counsel is penetrating, and whose discernment is liberating.

As soon as one awakens, one returns to the fundamental. One directly leaps beyond the realm of formlessness. Orient yourself towards the great Tao and engage in cultivation. Internally preserve spirit and nourish qi. Externally mix with the ordinary and join with the dust. This is residing in the world while being beyond the world. Then you may join the assemblies of immortals and buddhas (page 216). For myself, its returning home to be with dragons once again. When what was thought to be unknown is nothing more than what you have always known but seemingly forgotten.

  1. Acknowledgement and recollection of our own nature keeps us grounded in the pervasiveness of wisdom, or what should be considered as the transcendence of the cosmos. It is who we are before illusion comes forth to greet us in the mundane world. The ground and path we tread is both pure and illusory. Understanding this purity is what brings us to calmness and patience.
  2. It is to this point of inquiry that most people find challenging because it requires us to make a choice. Seeing everything, all phenomena as limitless, we can begin to see selflessness that contains no afflictions is what leads us to emptiness. It is this concept that the Buddha Siddhartha addresses so well and why additional study is so important in attaining the freedom of patience. It is in the patience gained through meditation we learn freedom and come to truly know ourselves.
  3. It is the complete purity of everything that is the basis of supreme patience. Mahayana Buddhism teaches us that it is in our meditation we learn that the object of meditation is ungraspable and at the same time limitless. From here when we go forth in a post-meditative state, we can see everything as illusion. That as attachment lessens and our wisdom increases, we find patience.
  4. Clearing our mind to get to this point is difficult. It is why a commitment to a Buddhist practice over time becomes essential. The idea of renunciation and relinquishing those things that keep us from awakening become foremost in our mind and actions. What is it we are to give up, or even wish to achieve in following the correct path… to be free of attachment and suffering?
  5. We begin by taking small steps. A sitting meditation practice requires patience. In our actions stop anger and assess where it comes from. Be peaceful, letting silence be our guide. Most things past by us without our input… just let things flow by as they simply take care of themselves. Commit to virtuous deeds as we accumulate the merit that contribute to our growth and awareness. Find what makes you happy that is unobtrusive to others and go there. Take the goodness intended by the teachings of the Buddha as your guidepost into your heart. Reduce pride and ego and let go of anger towards non-Buddhist views.
  6. We continue by practicing the patience of listening to the teachings as we incorporate them into our thoughts and wisdom. Our focus becomes our conduct and our ability to train in meditation. As our insight continues with reflection. This begins with listening and releasing ego that will dispel doubts as to our intended direction and ultimate liberation.

Chapter 8B that follows will include numbers 16 through 30.

 

 

 

 

By 1dandecarlo

“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 imprint, 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 that was to become Chan Buddhism in China and assist with what was to become Mahayana we follow here. 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

Alan Watts – Zen, the Bodhisattvas vow, and the art of becoming.

In coming to better understand Alan Watt’s view and his influence, especially his discourses on Zen and take on ancient Hindu scriptures, especially Vedanta that I have earlier referred to, I think his primary concern and disappointment was how the nature of divine reality is lost on man. How complementary opposites represent the method of life and the means of cosmic renewal and human evolution. His writings seemed to focus on our fundamental ignorance of that which rests in Tao, nature, and lack of evolution of man’s ego.

Painting by MARINA SOTIRIOU “no copyright infringement is intended.”

Zen for Watt I think, was how we are to encounter our own divinity, our own transcendence, and eventual longevity. And when we do, then what to do next. In first appreciating Zen, Watt’s book The Way of Zen, is what led me to try to better understand Mahayana Buddhism and my doing this series. He did as much or more, as anyone in the 20th century to connect the West with Eastern thought and philosophy.

In Alan Watts many books and writings, he explores how a person’s identity makes them the center of  the universe, conveying that the universe has meaning only if we place ourselves as its center. How the coming together of Mahayana Buddhism, Lao Tzu and Taoism, Confucius, and Vedanta became a collective wisdom shaping history and philosophy in the East, and what was to become known as Chan or Zen. Just as the I Ching, Lao Tzu and Taoism from the East, and Tolstoy, Emerson, and so many others from the West, have relayed that the separation of the Self from the physical universe has led to the mundane world’s hostile attitude to the environment and that a destructive attitude towards nature should not become what defines us. In coming to understand our place in the universe, Alan Watts legacy helped us in taking the next step.

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

In the footsteps of Bodhisattvas – 7A Embracing discipline while abandoning hypocrisy…

Key thought: Important to evaluate yourself with constant mindfulness of your 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. Writing not in the abstract, but true samadhi following the footsteps of my mentors. Aspiring to become one with my writing in the art of becoming. What can be the illusion? What I encounter in the here and now, what I see on a winter day with snow falling this morning. Or the constancy of the pull that is coming from inside like a flame that shows the impermanence of the snow that is soon to resemble an illusion. What was here for a moment is no more. Writing always only to resemble the next step I am to take. Understanding the complimentary opposites of the I Ching and how things are meant to find the middle way.

With Lao, Chuang, and Lieh inviting me to join them, but staying to the lower clouds as I remember the meaning of having and releasing merit and earning my keep. Knowing the right steps to follow and having the mindful presence to just do so. To embrace the Tao fully, then to go to teach and write stories connecting all. As if only a reminder of images and remembrances I am to now follow.

Recalling time in the countryside with my students in Shandong and traveling throughout China to incorporate the essence of history and meaning of structure and of discipline I seem to yearn for but lack that define why I am here this time. Remaining both the teacher and student. Remembering to heed the words of my mentors. Knowing appearances – now diminished by the hypocrisy of living in illusion every day. Living in Samadhi, in meditation and mindfulness, needing the courage of innate convictions only waiting for discipline and transformation to arrive and take hold. As it seems always my writing that takes me there.

  1. According to Alan Watt, what is important to note, is that early Buddhism that was to become Zen was the expression of Buddhist ideals in secular terms in early China in the arts of every type, in manual labor, and in appreciation of the natural universe. Both Confucians and Taoists would be agreeable to the idea of an awakening which did not involve the extermination of human passions. However, not exterminating the passions does not mean letting them flourish untamed. It means letting go of them, neither repressing passion nor indulging it. Much of early Buddhism in China referred to Taoist parallels, quotations, and phrases. This as much as anything led to a common denominator that fed the beginnings of Chan Buddhism in China and what was to become of Zen. (The Way of Zen page 81)
  2. The duality of self, or lack thereof always present with images of ego being tossed aside. Buddhism teaching that in no self all illusions fade into nothing. What could be important today that becomes nothing tomorrow? Are we who we see in the mirror each day or something more? Does this duality serve a higher purpose just waiting to get our attention? Maybe this becomes the ultimate progression. With change the only constant as we are here to adhere to and take the next step to enlightenment, to becoming genuine ourselves without hypocrisy reflected by our practice and by how we live.
  3. In following Lao and Chuang Tzu as my teachers with Confucius adding structure, the ultimate becomes awakening to what all this could be about. This pull to encounter the seeming unknown, as something seamless waiting to be revealed through meditation, mindfulness, and study of the King of Meditation Sutra, seems to provide the answer for now. As if following the flight of an arrow shot high in the air, will it return or just keep going. Of course, it will like us eventually land… but where? And what was it that influenced its direction along the way. What winds did it encounter that caused a mid-course correcting before returning?
  4. It is as if we are on the path of “practicing pragmatic engagement” as we assess our role with all things interconnected and interdependent. Accordingly, they require systemic solutions. Where all things work together to solve the problems of the whole. A good way to begin is to teach the knowledge of the Buddha and dharma. This begins as discipline without insincerity and pretense transcending into who we have always been.
  5. The Art of Becoming is ultimately simply putting aside illusions and remaining on the path, or way, of eternal peace, tranquility, and authenticity. To step into the next step as if directed by intuitive insight. To something some would call wu wei.
  6. With the track we are following here, our focus is still on the Mahayana. Training ourselves in the three levels of discipline as follows: 1) To physically abstain from harming other beings; 2) To continuously practice the Dharma; and 3) To bring the results of our practice into the world. The challenge is to bring ourselves into the view and cultivation of dharma. Mindfulness is to do all three.
  7. To look back and consider the essence of samadhi with the universe our guide as our responsibilities shows and teach us the equal nature of all things. Of course, as we step out of what may be our comfort zone, we must first pivot and say to ourselves “Do I want to go there, what could this mean, and where will it take me”. Chapter 1 of the Sutra reminds us that it remains the commitments of body, speech, and mind, as pure action beyond any reference point with knowledge of the aggregates that help Buddhism for so many and to guide our way that remains important. Ultimately try as we may – you cannot get away from it. Many have asked this over the centuries and are guided by the following:

The five aggregates are:

  • Form, or rupa. The form is physical matter. It is anything you can perceive with your senses, like a tree, a cup, or a piece of cake.
  • Sensation, or vedana. The sensation is the physical sensory experience of an object, like sight, touch, and taste.
  • Perception, or samjna. Perception is the labeling of sensory experience, like salty, soft, or warm.
  • The mental formation, or samskara. Mental formations are your biases, prejudices, interests, attitudes, and actions.
  • Consciousness, or vijnana. Consciousness is awareness of physical and mental processes, including the other skandhas.

Each person experiences the world through the five aggregates. Together, they make up a conscious experience. Together, they create a sense of “I”, or individualism. It is the combination of the aggregates that we come to know as our own individual selves.

  1. It is that individualism that the interdependence of the cosmos looks to, why it begins with us and paying attention to our mind. History tells us that when our body and speech are under control, our mind becomes stable. Many feel that the mind is the vestige of our spirit, or our soul.

When the Taoist and Lao Tzu refers to the heart/mind as our “inner nature” they refer to spirit. When we are mindful, we do not forget impermanence, suffering, selflessness, or emptiness. In line with an old Buddhist saying, “To see the light of wisdom, you must first empty your cup”.

  1. To become one with our highest selves, to meditate on our presence and where it leads us. To simply remember and go there. Finding discipline is why you are here (speaking for myself). While often mistaking the sense of wanting freedom with the need for discipline needed for the journey as we look to liberate all beings from suffering, this is the way of the Mahayana sutras.
  2. Living in the mundane world it becomes too easy to become hypocritical and insincere towards other sentient beings. The first step to transparency is becoming transparent ourselves. The word seems overused these days. To see through to what our motivations and those of others seems to be the first step to awakening. Some would say in this context that transparency is intentionally baring our soul to the world by showing our true self to others. It becomes the sincerity we express that defines us. For those that follow the Way of Virtue, the Tao, it is our second nature that defines compassion.

Alan Watts impact on understanding our role, especially the Tao and Lao Tzu, is immeasurable. His final book Tao – The Watercourse Way, should be required reading for anyone wanted a better appreciation of history. I especially liked his take on Chuang Tzu.  Living the Tao, what would be called “everything happening as is should or in tse jen”. The man of Tao lives as if a fish in water as a way of life. Recognizing the flow and staying one with it… The key for Watts was his adherence to respect of and for the Tao and its principles. How the Tao reconciles sociability with individuality, order with spontaneity, and unity with diversity.

Finally, Watts dismissed the need for zazen, or what has been referred to as the “aching leg syndrome” as necessary for awakening or enlightenment. He, like many Taoist masters, felt the use of meditative exercises such as sitting as a means of attainment was to be frowned upon. One is to align with wu wei through living in the moment day to day.  

  1. When our compassion becomes our strength this becomes our roadmap to follow. Joined with sincerity and effort…. discipline and merit will inherently follow as well. The key to wisdom is learning to abstain from hypocrisy. Where we learn to use illusion to mask laziness by covering our actions with self-interest.
  2. Discipline means recognizing our hypocrisy and knowing that it hurts others. Knowing how to act and how to change our view of things and our conduct. Having confidence gives us the dignity to overcome our fear. That we can change with wisdom and compassion aligning our actions with love and kindness.

Number 13 through 28 of this chapter to follow as 7B…

By 1dandecarlo

What is this thing with making offerings of merit we then give away as we move closer to our authentic presence? Where is it that “living in wisdom and thoughts of Zen” i.e., mindfulness, take us without ego clouding our vision?

As how we live matures as our authentic presence as our authentic presence then becomes the path to how we begin to live within the answers to such questions. To where tradition becomes our experience – as “moments” have a way of finding us.

It is like capturing within ourselves a benchmark, from where to begin our thoughts and actions. It is where meditation, and what was referred to earlier as zazen takes us. We soon learn that it is free of the stumbling blocks of physical boundaries and language to universal acceptance, joy, love, and understanding. Just where does our self-expression lie apparent for all to see?

Views inside the Shaolin Temple (famous for kung fu) on Songshan Mountain south of Luoyang that has played a vital role in the development of Chan Buddhism in China prior to moving to Japan and the development of Zen.

Why many people say Buddhism is not as much a religion, but a practice as to how we live our lives. How we can be a better Christian or another religion and follow a meditation practice based on Buddhism. This sense of equanimity, of oneness and loving-kindness, of coming to understand the terms of suchness, encapsulates our role in the universe when we begin to look for it. It becomes our own personal journey through time – and epochs. It has never been a matter of believing, or not believing, only rather we accept our own role and following the path, or Way, that has been laid out before us to follow. Its like going to school to learn who we are meant to be, and staying until we become the right answer.

Why I liked the heading of my previous entry, “We always seem to be waiting for patience, creativity, and even divergent thinking to arrive. When it is something we have always had or known as blessings, but simply paid little attention to or forgotten”. Just where did these eternal vibrations and blessings come from? It is why and how the Bodhisattva vow and thoughts of becoming a sage are to become embedded in our nature and why looking back to the beginning always points the way.

How taking the next step from within is what brings us to our greatest joy as patience, or the lack thereof, seems the attribute most needed for the journey ahead. Another is looking to openness to experience. Openness is seen in the breadth, depth, and permeability of consciousness, and in the ongoing quest for new experiences and ideas. Although distinct from intelligence, it is related to divergent thinking and to creativity discussed in the previous entry.

At some point, you begin speaking of only those things you feel qualified to speak about. With the release of ego bringing the ultimate freedom that defines the journey ahead. Always looking to the flow of what others have written for inspiration to not settle for where we currently reside. The conundrum or paradox to be present but not here just the same. The answers taking us to our own inner reality that only we can define – to where tradition becomes our experience as we awaken with mindful awareness. Why spending our time in reflection of the King of Meditation Sutra and the Tao becomes a corner post or stone to our thinking and actions that point the way to our basis of freedom. 

In the footsteps of Bodhisattvas – 6B / I am blessed in samadhi… continued

Key thought: I am blessed in samadhi – meditation and mindfulness take me there. Universal in my thoughts… one with universal love. The benefit of “no I or ego”, is to be free of fear, hypocrisy, and negative emotions.

  1. The way forward continues as we learn the dharma, sutras, and tantras that serve to pull us away from needless attachments and clinging. The dharma teaches us to refrain from worldly objects and to embrace spiritual growth. It is with this we learn to focus solely on wisdom and compassion, our merit and discipline, and the proper offerings that guide our way.
  2. Much can be said about the benefits of what may be known as guarding our actions and getting our heart and minds in accord with what we bring to the path. Coming into alignment with our highest aspirations can best be done by using our wealth wisely to accumulate merit, move closer to awakening, and investing in our future enfoldment. Identifying with a particular Buddha or Bodhisattva with our aspiration, can be focused on three kinds of offerings.

1) The first offering has to do with cleaning the alter, beautifying and expressing reverence as the place of our enfoldment, adding flowers, etc. The physical place of our practice.

2) The second kind of offering is benefiting others. When we are of service to others, it is the same as offering service to the Buddha himself. To sentient beings we offer material objects to protect their bodies, we offer words and physical support to protect them from fear, and we offer them the dharma to bring them to awakening.

3) The third offering is to engage in virtue without attachment. Free from the eight worldly concerns. We practice with mindfulness, gentleness, skill, and kindness.  This is the ultimate meaning of offering.

Lao Tzu depicted with I Ching at the Taoist Cave adjacent to the Leshan Giant Buddha south of Chengdu. What is important to note is how Lao Tzu and the symbols are interwoven with the yin/yang of I Ching in the background.

  1. We are reminded again of the tathagatas and those who have come before us, especially our role in observing the roots of all things, to the attainment of samadhi, and think only of the Dharma. The Dharma is our essential character and virtue that connects us to the cosmos and to the stars and connects with who we have always been and will be again. Why the tathagatas are so important to emulate in order that we accept our ultimate role as we look to discipline and abstaining from delusion.
  2. To embrace the Tao is know the Way of Heaven, to become constant in virtue so that our qi becomes harmonious. With this we can once again align and illuminate our inner nature, thereby protecting our life-destiny. While Buddhists talk of the meaning of the Tathagata, Taoist follow a similar track geared to refraining from offending celestial order and their place amidst the dragons and the stars.
  3. Recognizing, praising, and paying respect to our peers is essential to building confidence in our own abilities. Mirroring their attributes as our own gives character and strength to our endeavors. Watt and Suzuki bringing Zen forward comes to mind as a connecting point between Maitreya and Mañjuśrī in Buddhism, and Lao and Chuang Tzu in Taoism. Always bringing the thoughts of the ancients forward as our ultimate aspiration so that we too may mirror them.
  4. Continuing with the King of Meditation Sutra, it is knowing how to give properly of our wealth and not fearing to take our own next step that lights our way and the way of others that is key. We need to know how to best give of our intentions, talents, and wisdom, that help others as we expand the meaning of what generosity means. Whatever merit we gain is for the purpose of achieving enlightenment and to attain the mind of the Dharma.

A good way to follow our intentions is to make both mental and physical offerings in keeping with our endeavors as the bodhicitta of aspiration (the state of mind of a Bodhisattva), while carrying out enlightened intent through the bodhicitta of application (our actions, as we need to know how to give that will bring about physical benefit to those around us).

  1. Taoism often talks about how people of the mundane world do not comprehend the way of the sage. People of the ordinary world are only attached to what they see, like the illusions described in Buddhism, as if the illumination of fireflies only momentarily making appearances… but present just the same.

While the sage attends to the cosmos as yin and yang transform and heaven and earth find complimentary opposites, as all follow the way of virtue, zen, and the Tao.

  1. It is as if ascendancy is tied to wisdom. Which brings us back to the true essence of the meaning of an offering without clinging. To a sense of not requiring karmic reward and to be free of expectations. To follow “the mind of the Dharma” by offering merit without characteristics, personality, or temperament. It is in this place we meet the ultimate Buddha, also known as Dharmakaya Buddha.
  2. Often the first step is to broaden our own horizons going where the outcome cannot be known beforehand. Before departing, we must first open ourselves to an offering that will get our heart/mind on the proper footing or plane before departing on the path free of these pre-conceived traits. Free of clinging to any concept.

Instructions from the Buddha says that 1) the proper method of offering is to be free from seeing the Tathagata, the Buddha; 2) to abandon hope of any karmic return; and 3) to be without the view that “someone” is making the offering. This is called a “pure threefold feast”.  All that can be practice. And if we see that all as Dharma, then every function and every thought become the path.

  1. This view is extremely important in that we follow the Buddha and zen through our meditation and practice. To want nothing in return while we dedicate merit to all beings is central to the path we follow. By doing this, the Buddha conveys we will gain authentic enlightenment by developing the three-fold emptiness of the Buddha (the object of offering), the self (the subject who makes the offering), and the action (the offering itself). 
  2. That our practice becomes our authentic presence as our authentic presence then becomes our practice. Words to live by with Mañjuśrī in Mahayana Buddhism, the Bodhisattva (“Buddha-to-be”) personifying supreme wisdom and Lao Tzu always nearby. When we offer our merit to the universe, we create eternal virtue that never fades as it becomes us, as we in turn awaken to our enfoldment.
  3. Our merit is never lost. In focusing on defining and increasing our merit, we become free. Little steps taken each day manifest into big steps that become you/us. Do only that which contributes to enlightenment as you begin to wear the countenance of the Buddha and Lao Tzu.

 

By 1dandecarlo

We always seem to be waiting for patience, creativity, and even divergent thinking to arrive. When it is something we have always had or known as blessings, but simply paid little attention to or forgotten.

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—

Over 20,000 poems have since been written over the centuries on Yellow Mountain in tribute to the Taoist poet Li Bai. I visited the summit and read his poetry again in October 2016.

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.

  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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)
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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).

By 1dandecarlo

Gaining spiritual confidence – Connecting with the universal flow of divine energy and what or who takes us there as our karmic residue of virtue…

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

  1. 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”.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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),

2) The vision of wisdom by which celestial beings in the world of form (deva),

 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)

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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…
By 1dandecarlo