Sangha Notes

Sangha notes for 10-2-17

We discussed the differences between approaches to spirituality based on the Old Testament vs Buddhist teachings and vows.
Here is one version of Buddhism’s Four Great Vows:
“However innumerable sentient beings are; I vow to save them.
However inexhaustible the passions are; I vow to extinguish them.
However immeasurable the Dharmas are; I vow to study them.
However incomparable the Buddha-truth is; I vow to attain it.”

Sangha notes for 9-25-17

Steve read from The Eight Gates of Zen by John Daido Loori:
“One of the important parts of training as laid down by Master Dogen is what he calls ‘purification.’ This purification gets down to the nitty-gritty of life itself. His teaching is that the daily actions of our life are sacred…. [Purification] is not an attempt to be rid of pollutants, sins, or guilt, but rather the self-affirmation of original purity or emptiness, totally untouched by dualism. It is the simple act of using the bathroom, washing the face, brushing the teeth. Whether you are eating, working, or bowing, be present with the whole body and mind. Tune into yourself, into your body, into your life. Every act is not only a ritual in Zen—it is a sacrament.”

Sangha notes for 9-11-17

“Song of the Grass Roots Hermitage’ by Shitou Xiqian:
“I’ve built a grass hut where there is nothing of value.
After eating, I relax and enjoy a nap.
When the hut was completed, fresh weeds appeared.
Now it’s been lived in – covered by weeds.
The only person in the hut lives here calmly, not stuck inside, outside or in between.
Places worldly people live, he doesn’t live.
Realms worldly people love, she doesn’t love.
Though the hut is small, it includes the entire world.
In ten feet square, an old man illumes forms and their nature.
A Mahayana Bodhisattva trusts without doubt.
The middling or the lowly can’t help wondering;
Will this hut perish or not?
Perishable or not, the original master is present,
Not dwelling north or south, east or west.
Firmly based on steadiness, it can’t be surpassed.
A shining window below the green pines-
Jade palaces or vermilion towers can’t compare with it.
Just sitting with head covered, all things are at rest.
Thus, the mountain monk doesn’t understand at all.
Living here he no longer works to get free.
Who would proudly arrange seats, trying to entice guests?
Turn around the light to shine within, then just return.
The vast inconceivable source can’t be faced or turned away from.
Meet the ancestral teacher, be familiar with their instruction,
bind grasses to build a hut and don’t give up.
Let go of hundreds of years and relax completely.
Open your hands and walk, innocent.
Thousands of words, myriad interpretations
Are only to free you from obstructions.
If you want to know the undying person in the hut,
Don’t separate from this skin bag here and now.”

Sangha notes for 8-21-17

Quoted from Becoming Enlightened by the Dalai Lama:
      [The Core Perspective]
     “Just as you recognize that you are ill
     And see that you can eliminate  the cause of illness
     By attaining health through relying on a remedy,
     So recognize suffering,
     Eliminate it’s cause,
     Attain it’s cessation,
     And rely on the path.”
     –Maitreya, Sublime Continuum of the Great Vehicle

Sangha notes for 8-14-17

An excerpt from Becoming Enlightened by The Dalai Lama:
“Why is Shakyamuni Buddha valued so highly? By developing great compassion to an unbounded state, with sympathy for an infinite number of sentient beings that is like a mother’s feeling for her own sweet child, he developed a boundless intention to help all beings overcome all obstacles to happiness, and worked eon after eon in order to be of the greatest benefit to others. At the culmination of his practice, he succeeded in attaining all realizations and removing all obstructions to his own enlightenment, solely for the sake of continuously assisting others to rise to the same state. This is why it is suitable to go to him for refuge.”

Sangha notes for 7-7-17

Steve shared a passage from Becoming Enlightened by the Dalai Lama:
[quoted from Chandrakirti in Introduction to the Middle Way]
“Compassion itself is seen to be
The seed of a rich harvest, water for growth,
And the ripened state of long enjoyment.
Therefore, at the start I praise compassion.”

Sangha notes for 7-31-17

Steve shared thoughts on the practice of meditation:
“Do you want to practice Zen? Do you want to be more mindful? Then have no plan. Have no conclusion.
The ancient Zen Masters said that most people spend their lives in a state of delusion. Most people fail to see things as they truly are because they are seldom in the present. And most people believe things that are not true. They believe that they will always have friends and family that they can count on, but a war or plague could quickly be the end of your friends and family. Most people believe that they will always have enough food, and a comfortable place to sleep. Most people believe that they will always be able to walk and that they will always have their sanity. All these things could be lost, but many people are afraid to spend some time thinking about how impermanant our lives and our situations are. But the practice of meditation enables us to be fully in the moment without false beliefs, to accept the fact that any plan we have may become unworkable at any moment, and to realize that we are not infallible and that any conclusion we may arrive at may be false. So forget about making plans (your mind will make some anyway), then any plans you have will be less significant because you know that they may never work out. And with that understanding you will be less disappointed when your plans don’t work out. You will be more resilient and adapt to changes more spontaneously. And you will worry about the future less because you are not running from thoughts of possible disasters and you accept that there are limits to your control of your situation. And you will be more in the moment. Just the present sounds and smells. Just your breathing. Just this.”

Sangha notes for 7-24-17

Greg read a passage from Cultivating the Empty Field, The Silent Illumination of Zen Master Hongzhi:
“Contemplating your own authentic form is how to contemplate Buddha. If you can experience yourself without distractions, simply surpass partiality and go beyond conceptualizing. All buddhas and all minds reach the essential without duality. Patch-robed monks silently wander and tranquilly dwell in the empty spirit…. Dignified without relying on others and radiant beyond doubt, maintaining this as primary, the energy turns around and transforms all estrangement.”

Sangha notes for 7-17-17

Steve shared a reading from Comfortable with Uncertainty by Pema Chodron:
“When the bottom is falling out we might suddenly recall the slogan, ‘If you practice even when distracted, you are well-trained.’ If we can practice when we’re jealous, resentful, scornful, when we hate ourselves, then we are well-trained. Again, practice means not continuing to strengthen the habitual patterns that keep us trapped; doing anything we can to shake up and ventilate our self-justification and blame. We do our best to stay with the strong energy without acting out or repressing. In so doing, our habits become more porous.
Our patterns are, of course, well-established, seductive, and comforting. Just wishing for them to be ventilated isn’t enough. Mindfulness and awareness are key. Do we see the stories that we’re telling ourselves and question their validity? When we are distracted by a strong emotion, do we remember that it is part of our path? Can we feel the emotion and breathe it into our hearts for ourselves and everyone else? If we can remember to experiment like this even occasionally, we are training as a warrior. And when we can’t practice when distracted but know that we can’t, we are still training well. Never underestimate the power of compassionately recognizing what’s going on.”