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* Anger, Hatred, and Zen ~ Ammended [May. 24th, 2010|01:08 am]
A community for Zen Buddhists and those interested

We as Buddhists, are often affected by acts of injustice or hatred.
When we learn that a toddler has been sexually abused, our hearts go out for that child. We feel much sorrow for that child's negative experience. When we learn that millions of people were marched into a large room where they and their relatives are systematically gassed to death, we emote certain feelings about that negative action that was executed against them. When we learned that millions of people were enslaved, lynched, shot, beaten, and unnecessarily humiliated, just because of their skin-color, we emote certain feelings about the injustice served to those people.

I think that we can all agree that the horrible deeds done to all of these people should be considered as despicable actions. Since actions are not human beings or sentient beings, it is perfectly permissible to "hate" these actions. Hating hatred is a healthy mental exercise. However, hating people who hate is quite self-destructive and is in direct violation of the Mahayana Bodhisattva Ideal. We cannot maintain the goal of leading all sentient beings to nirvana, while hating any portion of our family. Unfortunately, those horrendous actions were taken against the innocent, by seriously deluded members of our own family.

Hating Nazis, Klansmen, criminals, or rapists would be like having one of these people in your nuclear family and feeling hatred towards them.
These people after all, are members of the human family, they are sentient beings. As such, we have taken a vow to seek their spiritual freedom. We can only do this from the vantage point of love and compassion. Yes, I know it can be difficult, but we as Buddhists, and particularly as representatives of Zen, must have both the mental and spiritual resolve to feel our floodgates overflow with compassion for both predator and prey, both the culprit and victim alike.

How do we do this? We do this through our practice. Daily meditation of Shikantaza (Samatha and Vipassana if you wish) and Loving-Kindness. We do this by becoming intimately engaged with the phenomena in which we're dealing. So, we protest against that which Nazis stand for, not Nazis! We confront Klansmen and their issues because of the nature of their issues. Sure we can have civil debate, that is just one educational option used to expose the ignorant behavior for what it is. * However, we strive not to become engaged in physical violence. It is our duty to restrain from physical violence. Our goal therefore, is to always make every effort to employ the "turn the other cheek" philosophy, as much as is humanly possible.

To become angry about certain ideas, concepts, and actions is quite normal and should be permitted. To hate hatred and delusional ideas that thwart us from our Noble eight-fold path is commendable. However, under no circumstances should we allow ourselves to hate the deluded people sponsoring such illusionary ideas. Our anger about their delusion should be tempered before it becomes hatred for the deluded ones.

Our anger towards their delusional ideas should be only temporary and then it should be monitored, tempered, controlled, and then extinguished. When this is done, hatred has no foundation upon which to stand!

Socially Engaged Buddhists fueled by the compassion cultivated by their practice are a power to be reckoned with. This is especially so when powered by Zen!

No Anger! No Hatred!

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The Samurai and Zen... [May. 12th, 2010|12:19 am]
A community for Zen Buddhists and those interested


Early Japan had soldiers that were "on call" by the emperor at times of emergency. These "soldiers" were merely farmers who were allowed to remain tax-exempt while they were in service to the emperor. Since most of these farmers were good hunters with the long bow, they served their minimal duties somewhat satisfactorily in most cases.

However, as clans grew and expanded on limited fertile farmland, so did the need to restrict clan interaction. The emperor needed more highly skilled warriors to both manage clan interaction and collect taxes from the larger clans. The emperor began to recruit members of the various clans to serve as palace guardsmen. Most of these men were already quite capable archers, horsemen, and martial artists. Only the best were required for the emperor's personal needs in and around the palace. These men were the first Samurai warriors.

Once enlisted, the Samurai were required to train and practice in the martial arts and swordsmanship. Eventually, after years of recruitment of soldiers from the various clans, families would send their male children to school to become trained in horsemanship, the martial arts,
archery, and swordsmanship. A warlike mentality or culture began to develop amongst the clans who were becoming even better military men as each decade would pass. In time, the emperor began receiving progressively better Samurai recruits. It was also a fact that as time passed, technology for better metallurgy was improving and the sword blade was becoming sharper, less brittle, and more rust resistant.

The Samurai was now equipped with a more highly developed sword and knife, that was less proned to break during battle. He was also furnished the traditional long bow and a suit of armour. Usually, his horseback riding skills were commensurate with his rank in the hierarchy of the Samurai, provided that all other fighting skills were in place.

In addition to being a highly trained fighting machine for the emperor and nobility, the Samurai was also equipped with one other weapon, Zen.
Zen was used solely for its meditative purposes. It was implemented for the purpose of developing the mind's ability to focus, to concentrate, and to be continually mindful of the Samurai's goal. That goal was to kill or utterly destroy his master's enemy. It was for this goal that the Samurai invoked the Bushido code of devout loyalty to his master and blind fearlessness upon the battlefield.

To this extent, Zen was abused by the Samurai. The Samurai abused it for a selfish and corrupted end. It was abused for the purpose of destroying fellow human beings.

Zen is a very powerful tool whose meditative principles can be used for the good or the worse for human beings. It is the pitbull of Buddhism! The pitbull is my most favored of all canines. If trained properly, it can be the sweetest canine, full of love, gentility and devotion. On the other hand, if not trained, it will go of the chain and become the most dangerous unleashed source of pain imaginable.

Zen is not only supposed to teach us how to concentrate and how to let go. It is also supposed to teach us how to be mindful in a righteous manner about that which we are concentrating upon and how to let go when its time to righteously act and let go!

The Samurai did not use Zen in a non-dualistic manner. His master became his world. Only the world is the world!

So which do you want? The most beautiful flower in the well-manicured garden of light or the ugliest, most prolific, and hungriest, perennial weed of the darkest jungle.

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Concentration and Right Mindfulness is the Key... [May. 7th, 2010|02:19 pm]
A community for Zen Buddhists and those interested

When I first began insight meditation many years ago, my first challenge was to just concentrate without monkey mind or falling asleep.
Eventually, I began to have the ability to concentrate or focus without so many mental distractions. As my ability to concentrate improved, so did my ability to "understand" where my center was. This understanding your center and being comfortable with it is called Right Mindfulness.
Anyone is capable of concentrating. However, the subject matter upon that which one is concentrating is extremely important. If one is focused upon lust, hatred, ego, or a subject derived from ignorance, concentration is forfeited. However, if ones concentration is not directed towards self, but instead, the whole, then ones concentration is said to be right.

Right Concentration and Right Mindfulness go hand in hand. They are like the Jockey and the Horse. The Horse being concentration and the Jockey, being mindfulness. The Horse is there to serve as the vehicle but it needs to know where to go. The Jockey (mindfulness) accomplishes this feat.

Vipassana requires that right concentration and right mindfulness work in tandem together. This requires the Right effort. Applied in the correct manner, Right concentration determines the degree of intensity of our sit, Right mindfulness determines the depth and centrality of our sit. Thus monkey mind is diminished and sleep is no longer an option.

This is the core of our practice and from it we cultivate the Right View, within us dwells the Right Intention, from which both the Right Speech and Action must flow.

How fortunate we must be, if we also have employment where we can be the true Bodhisattvas that we have assigned ourselves to be.
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random [May. 5th, 2010|12:27 pm]
A community for Zen Buddhists and those interested

my brother bought me a book several years ago called "offerings". it's a beautiful book of photography with buddhist sayings and a picture for every day of the year. it sits on my desk at work and every morning i read the entry for that day and meditate on it for a minute or two. i really liked the saying for yesterday and wanted to share here:

"when faced with a feeling of stagnation and confusion, it may be helpful to take an hour, an afternoon, or even several days to reflect on what it is that will truly bring us happiness."
-howard cutler

i have personally had a difficult month, so reading that yesterday was a nice reminder that it was ok to take time to just be present with my breath and let all the things swirling around just be what they are. i hope some of you can enjoy that thought as well.

namaste. :)
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Today's Accounting... [May. 4th, 2010|03:52 pm]
A community for Zen Buddhists and those interested

I was duly warned by YukonTodd about the mental distractions and spiritual turmoil that was present within another community. I failed to listen and paid the mental consequences for it.

Right now, I am in a bad place and am in dire need of spiritual rejuvenation. I will therefore, take a moment to regroup with samatha and then a cup of tea.

I have just now joined this group and look forward to making new friendships and strengthening bonds of old. Of course, there really is just the one bond that we all hold.

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Well [Apr. 27th, 2010|03:08 pm]
A community for Zen Buddhists and those interested
Another year has passed since the founding of this journal, in fact passed completely unnoticed a few days ago. The age of community journals seems to have passed along with it, or at least the last dregs of of that rich, at-one-time sustaining brew.

Today, many seem willing to read, but the writers, they're freaks on display. Maybe it was always like that, but the earnest freaks, well, it gets tiresome after a while. I have a real Buddhist path to follow, where sangha takes and gives rather than takes and takes. So, I'm going to aim, in the future, at having my own internet site, where people can follow along my zen blog if they wish to. I'll probably even come back and post where to find me here, once I register a domain. It seems better to make honest effort to be open on my own, that way, rather than beat a dead horse here. I have things to do, a house to build, a child to raise, more older children to adopt, systems to buck, a sitting group to start, Buddhist teachers to learn from, poetry to read and write, and that novel I've been meaning to start. I'll write about all that in my new site. Hope to see you there soon.

Best wishes,

"Yukon" Todd Bowlby

p.s. Do let me know if there's anything I can do for the community in the future. I don't think I'll be monitoring it any further, so nudge me if some jerk makes horrid posts, or if you guys have someone interested in modding instead of me, or whatever. Not saying a teary drama filled goodbye, just time for a change for me, so I'm plugging my new project and letting folks know to comment here if you need anything else from me, or head over to my new site to contact me once it's up.

Take care!
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(no subject) [Apr. 19th, 2010|04:43 pm]
A community for Zen Buddhists and those interested
I was reading about a fellow who'd ordained a monk in Myanmar couldn't eat past noon.  He was actually a "westerner" Soto Zen priest who'd re-ordained in the tradition of Theravada.  The article described how he thought a more homogeneously ascetic monastic community could benefit American society.  Monks living an ascetic life joyously, ascetic only in the sense that they acted with great restraint in accordance with their vows, would act as a restraint on society as a whole.  The article especially mentioned the rule about not eating past noon, and eating only what was offered to them by the laity.  As I scrolled down, I was struck by the ad which had become paired with this article: "Tricks to losing weight" with a drawing of a quite obese woman overlaying it.

For some reason, I felt a release of tension I didn't know I was carrying, and I feel grateful to this monk, that reporter.  But without this computer, this house, the internet ...

But restraint, not asceticism, I think that's the key.  You know?  Anyway, gotta run.
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If I lived in Japan, wouldn't it be tomorrow already? No matter. [Apr. 8th, 2010|02:53 pm]
A community for Zen Buddhists and those interested
 Happy Birthday, Buddha!

Today, I've been reading the great discourse on steadfast mindfulness, the Mahàsatipaññhàna Sutta.

The introduction reads so:

Please practise in accordance with this Mahàsatipaññhàna Sutta so that you can see why it is acknowledged as the most important Sutta that the Buddha taught.

Try to practise all the different sections from time to time as they are all useful, but in the beginning start with something simple such as being mindful while walking (see Iriyàpatha Pabba), or the mindfulness of in and out breathing (see Anàpàna Pabba). Then as you practise these you will be able to practise the other sections contained within this Sutta and you will find that all the four satipaññhànas can be practised concurrently.

A sutta should be read again and again as you will tend to forget its message. The message here in this Sutta is that you should be mindful of whatever is occurring in the body and mind, whether it be good or bad, and thus you will become aware that all conditioned phenomena are impermanent, unsatisfactory and not-self.

The original Pàëi text of this Sutta can be found in Mahàvagga of the Dãgha Nikàya

Is this the practice of Zazen, this practice of all the four satipannhanas concurrently?  That is, mindfulness of body, feelings, thoughts, and dharmas?  In Zazen, these things seem to go around and around, so I think so.  This is what our practice has in common with all practices in Buddhism, and what, it seems to me, Zen stresses: our practice is nothing special, so that Zazen can get up off the cushion and walk around.  Before Zazen, it was always there, Zazen adds nothing.

I don't know what I'm talking about.  I haven't been sitting regularly, even.  I cancelled a sesshin before it really got booked because of other priorities which I'm not even sure matter anymore.  A desperate person has asked me to teach them to meditate, and I've said I'd do what I could.  How could I not?  But how can I not mess everything up?

I'll do what I can, Buddha.  Happy Birthday!
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Zen Buddhism [Apr. 3rd, 2010|11:49 am]
A community for Zen Buddhists and those interested
 What is it?

The nonsense on our info page "Find out for yourself", isn't bad, really, but it can, and does often, seem to lead to some mumbo-jumbo mystic thoughts about something very salty and down to earth, rather than to just sit a beginner's ass down and get them to see for themselves.  I can certainly say I didn't understand what it meant when I wrote it, though I knew I had to practice for myself at least.

Dogen says that we should say we are Buddhists, not Zen Buddhists, not Soto Buddhists, or even Japanese or Canadian Buddhists.  Just that we practice Buddhism.  This seems to lead to, "my Buddhism is right Buddhism, yours, well, it's very nice, but it's not so good."  And that's at best.  Long time practitioners of the same sect might understand, yes, we're just Buddhists, but to tell people what we practice, it's easiest to shorthand it.  Though, over all, we should always remember, we're Buddhists, practicing what the Buddha practiced.  So, to hell with "Zen".  BUT, we have to say something.  Don't we?

Maybe it's enough to say that "Zen Buddhism" as a term comes from "Dhyana" Buddhism that comes from "Jhanna Buddhism" that means we're very focused on meditation practice, that we are "Meditation Buddhism", but that seems to say that other schools don't meditate, or don't meditate much or as much, and that'd be a lie.  Maybe we think we meditate more purely, but that's just us liking ourselves.  And this leaves out what set our school apart the most in Chinese history: case records.  Case records are important to us, and set us apart, even if we are Soto and practice Shikantaza, they're still our most precious history, and to outsiders still our most instantly recognizable component.

So, what do we say, what can we say, Zen Buddhism is?
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Mala of Fingers - Angulimala [Mar. 30th, 2010|04:45 pm]
A community for Zen Buddhists and those interested
 Wikipedia has an excellent article (as of now, anyways) on Angulimala:

I think it's a story about spreading the Dharma without discrimination.  I was looking up the story, yet again, after reading something in which someone seemed to suggest that people who acted badly enough should be thrown out of Buddhism.  But who needs the Dharma more than someone like Angulimala?  Given the information, from this site, that the earliest forms of the story had Angulimala acting pretty much of his own will, and not at all being taken in by circumstances and an evil teacher with an axe to grind, I feel even more strongly that this is the main point of the story.

What do you think the story's about?
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