Are You Ready for Things to Get Real?

Zen Master Dogen, the great founder of Soto Zen, alludes to a fable concerning a man named Seiko, who was fascinated by dragons and collected dragon themed artworks. One day a real dragon thought, “If I appear in Seiko’s house he will be delighted.” But when Seiko saw the dragon, he was absolutely terrified. How about you, are you ready for things to get real?

From Practical Zen: Meditation and Beyond, by Julian Daizan Skinner © 2017. Reprinted with permission of Singing Dragon. Julian Daizan Skinner, a Zen monk since 1989, has practiced and received dharma transmission in the Soto and Rinzai Zen traditions.

 

Cultivate Your Mind

External constructions, however well you make them, will crumble and disintegrate. What we create within our minds will last much longer.

From The Dalai Lama’s Little Book of Mysticism: The Essential Teachings, edited by Renuka Singh © 2017. Reprinted with permission of Hampton Roads Publishing Company. Renuka Singh is a professor of sociology at Jawaharlal Nehru University and the director of Tushita Mahayana Meditation Center, both in New Delhi, India.

 

You Are Your Own Guide

Things appear as truly existent when we fail to analyze them, but when we do analyze them we can see that everything is created by our mind. There is nobody else who has come and created our problems for us—“I’m creating your problems”—they are all created by our mind. We are the creator. That is why in his teachings the Buddha said,

You are your own enemy
And you are your own guide.
You are the creator of your
    own suffering
And you are the creator of your
    own happiness.

As I have mentioned, we are the creator of our day-to-day life’s problems, hour by hour, minute by minute, second by second, and we are also the creator of our day-to-day life’s happiness, hour by hour, minute by minute, second by second.

From Sun of Devotion, Stream of Blessings, by Lama Zopa Rinpoche © 2016. Reprinted with permission of Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive. Lama Zopa Rinpoche is the spiritual director of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), an international organization of some 160 centers, projects, and services in 40 countries worldwide.

 

Beyond Belief

People find it quite easy to have beliefs and to hold on to them and to let their whole world be a product of their belief system. They also find it quite easy to attack those who disagree. The harder, more courageous thing, which the hero and the heroine, the warrior, and the mystic do, is to continually look one’s beliefs straight in the face, honestly and clearly, and then step beyond them. That requires a lot of heart and kindness. It requires being able to touch and know completely, to the core, your own experience without harshness, without making any judgment.

“When you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha” means that when you see that you’re grasping or clinging to anything, whether conventionally it’s called good or bad, make friends with that. Look into it. Get to know it completely and utterly. In that way it will let go of itself.

From Awakening Loving-Kindness, by Pema Chödrön © 2017. Reprinted with permission of Shambhala Publications. Pema Chödrön is the principal teacher at Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia.

 

The Wisdom of Stillness

Calm-abiding is a settled one-pointedness of mind, not a sleepy or a blank state. One rests in the experience of the present moment, neither distracted by thoughts of past or future nor anxiously grasping at whatever is arising right now. It is a state that is stable, open, and clear, in which thoughts are neither suppressed nor cultivated.

From Wisdom in Exile: Buddhism and Modern Times, by Lama Jampa Thaye © 2017. Reprinted with permission of Ganesha Press. Lama Jampa Thaye, PhD, is founder of the Shri Dechen Dharma Community, an international network of centers in the Sakya and Kagyu Tibetan Buddhist traditions. He is a scholar, author, and meditation teacher from the United Kingdom.

 

Thought Can’t Hurt You

Like ripples on water,
Ordinary discursive thoughts
(Wanting this, not wanting that)
Pop up, all of a sudden.
But once you’ve learned how to liberate
Thoughts just as they arise,
They cannot take hold, and so they vanish.
This is a vital point that must be understood.

When “bad” thoughts arise, they will not accrue bad karma,
Since discursive thoughts
Set free just as they arise
Have not yet taken hold.
Who is helped or harmed by a mere flash of thought?

From Enlightened Vagabond: The Life and Teachings of Patrul Rinpoche, by Matthieu Ricard © 2017. Reprinted with permission of Shambhala Publications. Matthieu Ricard is a monk, photographer, and translator who has lived in the Himalayas for 30 years. He now resides at Shechen Monastery in Nepal.

 

Nothing You “Should” Do

You may worry that the motivation to include all beings in your caring demands too much of you. However, a wide and caring heart is not a “should” or an obligation but a longing that awakens naturally. The more your heart opens, whether this is through your meditation practice or experiences of caring, the more you yearn to live a life that is filled with a feeling of love.

From Heartwork: The Path of Self-Compassion, by Radhule Weininger © 2017. Reprinted with permission of Shambhala Publications. Radhule Weininger, MD, PhD, is a clinical psychologist based in Santa Barbara, California. She teaches meditation retreats both in the U.S. and internationally.

How to Be a Buddha

When you’re alive there’s nothing but life. When you die there’s nothing but death. So when life comes, be alive. When death comes, die. You don’t need to dodge either one, and you don’t need to long for either one. Your own life and death are exactly the sacred life of Buddha. If you despise your real life and want to toss it aside, you’re throwing away the sacred life of Buddha. On the other hand, if you grab on to your life like there’s no tomorrow, that’s another way to throw away the sacred life of Buddha. That’s just you pretending to be Buddha.

You really only get inside the mind of Buddha when you can stop wanting life and stop fearing death.

But don’t think about it, and don’t talk about it. Just let go of your body and forget your mind. Throw them into the house of Buddha. Then Buddha does it all. Follow this way, and you become a Buddha without making any effort or coming up with any plan. Who would want to get stuck in their own mind?

It’s easy to become a Buddha. Don’t be a jerk. Don’t get hung up on life and death. Have compassion for everybody and everything. Show some respect to people who deserve it and kindness to people who need it. Don’t get all caught up in hating stuff or in wanting stuff. Don’t think too much. Don’t worry.

That’s what we call being a Buddha. You don’t need anything else.

From It Came from Beyond Zen: More Practical Advice from Dogen, Japan’s Greatest Zen Master, paraphrasing of Dogen by Brad Warner © 2017. Reprinted with permission of New World Library. Brad Warner is a Soto Zen priest, punk bassist, filmmaker, and author based in Los Angeles.

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