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Monday, March 9, 2009, 6:46 PM
I frequently overhear people talking about how they don't know what to do with their lives. They grasp at straws, hoping to stumble across that one thing that will make them feel satisfied with their lives. So many people just want to matter, have their lives matter, and have what they do matter. They just want to mean something. The only problem with that is just because it is supposed to be a life that matters, it doesn't matter to them. Even the most noble of pursuits will leave you feeling hollow and empty inside if they are not your pursuits. You will never be able to feel at home in your own skin because you are living someone else's life.
Everyone has a home, a place where they belong and a calling that makes then feel complete. And there are signs all along the road to tell you which way to turn and how far you are from your destination. The only problem is that we are sometimes too distracted to see them, or worse yet, the signs are in a language we can't read. Or at least we think we can't.
Everyone's soul has it's own language and its way of processing information from the outside world. As a result, everyone sees through filters, and that has the potential to be a great thing. It gives you the chance to learn the language of your soul. There's something in everyone's life that everything always comes back to. You could be talking about anything, and then, without anyone being the wiser, suddenly the language of your soul makes itself plain with one little phrase: "...it's kinda like [x]!"
Passion is the language of the soul. Whatever it all comes back to with you is where you belong. If you let it, your own passion will tell you the way home. You just have to listen to it, trust it and be willing to go wherever it leads. It might be tough, but the reward is worth it. And what is that reward? Enduring happiness that nothing can touch. When you are where you belong, all is right in the world and everything falls into place.
Sunday, March 8, 2009, 6:27 PM
Joy is quite possibly the only thing more contagious than a yawn. When you exude joy, it truly is the tide that raises all ships. Without even trying, your joy causes other people to smile and it begins to spread. It is in fact the opposite of a yawn, because when you catch it, you feel energetic instead of feeling drained.
From the perspective of my faith, joy is never lost or missing, it is simply buried under other things. Like your keys hidden in the cushions of the couch, joy is never really lost. It's always there; you just have to sometimes do a bit of work to find it!
Sometimes the events of life can pile up upon joy to the extent that it can appear that joy is diminished or absent, but in reality it is like a seed underground. Turmoil and distress can frequently be fertile ground for joy to germinate. Or it could be thought of as a buried treasure: once you dig through and remove all that covers over your joy, it is free to enrich your life.
When the world is viewed from the perspective of joy, all events, even those that are catastrophic, can be seen as beneficial. All experiences are teachers, capable of expanding your capacity for joy. I have often found myself thankful for the difficulties I have endured, because they not only have allowed me to add depth and dimension to the joy I feel, but have made me grow in strength and compassion. Adversity shapes and expands understanding, and understanding + joy = compassion.
Saturday, March 7, 2009, 10:15 AM
I often talk about faith and belief, and the sheer power it can have over anything, especially the mind and body. Belief and faith are in fact not synonymous terms, but are like Siamese twins that must exist together in order to survive. They are two halves of the same greater coin.
What we believe about our world makes our world what it is. If people believe the earth is an exploitable mudball, then it is. But this one belief has side effects. If one thing is exploitable, the next step to making other things exploitable is a small one. Likewise, if people believe that all people are sacred, then the next step to believing all life is sacred is a small one.
Every decision that we make out of faith, believing it is good and right, shapes our destiny. It shapes our destiny because it shapes our minds. We create our own systems of belief with every step down that self-created road. When we convince ourselves that something "has to be done" a certain way, we cement this belief. The same is true when we convince ourselves that "there's no other way." With these small steps we go a long way in preventing ourselves from seeing anything other than what we choose to believe. What we choose to believe creates our perception and how we view the world, devolving into a cycle of self-fulfilling prophecy, because for most, perception is reality.
I have been noticing an increase in the number of people that have either stopped believing in some kind of overarching force or divine power or have begun believing that said overarching force is malignant, or to quote someone I overheard recently, "a vast nebulae of disappointment." People seem to be becoming more convinced that if there is a divine presence, it is an absentee landlord or is completely apathetic to the plights facing humankind.
We as humans tend to overlook miracles, or believe they simply do not exist. Perhaps we can't see the actions of a divine force because we ignored it or destroyed it in the first place. It is an unfortunate truth about humans that we tend to not realize what we have until it is gone. Despite our shortsightedness, we cannot blame the divine force for what it is we do to ourselves, each other, and the planet we live on.
There is a Zen saying that should you meet the Buddha on the road, you should kill him. To date this is one of the wisest statements I have ever come across. When you kill the Buddha, you are not relying on some outside force to grant you salvation and enlightenment. The Buddha you meet will never be the real Buddha, and believing that he is will only trap your soul. The only real Buddha is your Buddha nature. You are the only path to your own enlightenment. You are the change you wish to see in the world.
Many people are still waiting for their divine force to answer their prayers and provide proof of their existence, or if nothing else ease the suffering that plagues the world. The truth is, though, simply making the world better will do no good. We will not learn from our mistakes. Indeed, the divine force is answering our prayers by letting us continue on our path. For at the end of that path is realization, and from that realization will come lasting and enduring understanding. At the end of that road lies the Buddha in the road, and if we do as we must and kill him, only then will reality become perception.
We cannot blame the Divine force for what it is we do to ourselves, each other, and the planet we live on. Still, it seems we venerate our gift of free will with one breath, and curse the Divine for allowing our actions to get out of hand with the next. All that is wrong with the world is wrought by the hands of man, and even though it should be our task to undo what we have done, the Divine still sees to its creation.
Friday, March 6, 2009, 10:31 AM
Zen Buddhism has my respect, because on the surface it would seem to contradict itself on several points. For example, it is a Buddhist path that has no conflict with its adherents being warriors, and it also tends to eschew the teachings of the Buddha. Zen is a religion of paradox, and this is no accident. Where the philosophies of Zen collide is where you find the real truth of the religion. It is often debated as to whether Zen is truly a religion or a philosophy, and Zen does not care. It knows that it is both, neither, and something else entirely all at the same time. Zen uses paradox to pry open the mind, for when a paradox is pondered, and event horizon occurs in the mind.
Zen is unique in that it does not have a set method of practice. There are features that are similar to others in various Zen practices, but the point of Zen is to find your Buddha nature. Zen writings have a readily open stance that quoting the teachings of the Buddha is not how you become enlightened and develop your Buddha nature. Zen is like other Buddhist practices in that it believes everyone has a Buddha nature, but unlike other sects of Buddhism, Zen believes each Buddha nature is different and has its own path to enlightenment.
Because of this stance, Zen does not rely solely on the teachings of the Buddha, and some sects even believe that relying on the teachings of Buddha will prevent you from finding your own true Buddha nature by adopting someone else's, namely the Buddha. Instead, Zen uses mind opening devices such as koans for purposes of meditation and development of the inner wisdom of the individual Buddha nature. One of the most famous koans is "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" These imponderable ponderables are designed to instill reflection and look beneath the surface of all things. Zen also incorporates Zazen (sitting meditation), kinhin (walking meditation), sacred hand positions (commonly gassho, shashu or hokkaijoin), chanting, and the use of objects for focus (i.e. altars).
Zen is all about the one true way of the individual, and Zen is all about having a relaxed structure that helps you find the more concrete structure of your Zen path. Nothing in Zen is written in stone, except the three mandates: truth, honor and dedication. Without these three things, you cannot expose your true Buddha nature. Dedication is required, because you must devote enormous amounts of your self to excavating your Buddha nature, and without truth and honor the temptation would be great to attempt to make your Buddha nature instead of letting it manifest. For example, it would be easy to simply say that it is your Buddha nature to be fastidious to excuse a personality trait instead of using the three mandates to find the real Buddha nature.
Such is the trap of such an open ended religion with flexible rules. Zen on the surface seems like a religion that is easily practiced, because it is all about a person living well. However, because the temptations of the flesh are very real and very persuasive, Zen can also be a incredibly difficult to adhere to. Zen requires a very high level of self discipline, difficult introspection, and the tenacity to do what is right for your Buddha nature instead of what is easy, comfortable, or convenient. Zen is a great challenge, for peeling away the numerous layers of worldly falseness often reveals something we do not expect and are not ready for beneath.
Zen's greatest challenge is determining the truth of self from everything else. If your truth is to be a warrior, the practice of Zen will encourage that in you. But if you seek out the path of a warrior for false means (hatred, vengeance, or inner demons), then you have failed your faith and yourself. Likewise if you take on the role of a healer because you feel the inner drive to do so, then you are most likely working to develop your Buddha nature. But if you pursue it for fame, riches, or any other superficial purpose, again you have failed yourself and your faith. Any act that promotes, protects, helps, encourages or has any kind greater positive affect and also grows your Buddha nature is an act that is condoned by Zen. It is important to note, though, that the greater affect is not the key. If your Buddha nature suffers because of what you do, then it is wrong, no matter what the end result for others might be.
In my explorations of Shinto (and therefore Buddhism), I have created my own principle to represent the incredible challenges of the practice of Zen: the Ryuu no Satori (Dragon of Enlightenment). To slay the dragon is to overcome the challenges put forth by Zen, but also means that the illusions of the self are destroyed and the Buddha nature can then be freed.
Thursday, March 5, 2009, 11:08 AM
What would we do if our mirrors could speak to us? I have a feeling many would refuse to listen.
Consider the whole of your life and you will find that the great vast majority of your experiences have garnered little or no response. Only a very tiny few have been met with strong emotion like rage or fury or even love - the kind of love that when you stand next to it you feel tiny and insignificant. And if you were to examine those rare moments that you greeted with rage or fear or love, you will find the only truths you will ever need.
Truths that we cannot accept we fight or flee from. Truths that fight back and win change us. Fighting the truth is not always bad, because sometimes it takes a hard-fought battle with yourself to put things in perspective. Truths that are given to us and we simply accept are flimsy and buckle easily.
Holiness is not a thing, it is not a fixed object, quantity, location, state or condition. Holiness is fluid, amorphous, dynamic. That which can be made can be unmade, and that which has been unmade can be transformed. I have seen an old church desanctified and turned into a club just as I have seen a former warehouse turned into a house of god. And in spite of all of the changes, holiness is not affected. A club, a warehouse, a bus stop, a sewer- anything can be holy- and is made such not by elaborate rituals or even intent, but through daily use. That which is holy is an avatar of holiness, and avatars are made by us through our actions.
There is no good and evil, only opposites. Through indirect indoctrination, we are drilled with the belief that there are two sides- the side of light which is good, and the side of darkness which is evil. There is no correct side to be on, only the force we were meant to serve. There is no shame in being an agent of darkness if that is what you are, but there is shame in being an agent of light if you were not meant to be. We all have a calling to serve something greater. It is how you serve that reveals what you serve. Doing the right things for the wrong reasons is still dark. Doing the wrong things for the right reason is still light.
Light illumimates, darkness conceals. Light is active, dark is passive. Light is direct, dark is indirect. Each has its virtues, making both valid and necessary. But dwelling well within the domain of either tends to make one blind. It is that edge, that boundary between the two where the two forces constantly push against one another, where truth is found. There at that event horizon truth is born and dies. Without that epic and eternal struggle, there would be no change, but worse than that there would be no purpose.