Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Monday, February 23, 2015
The Great Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra is the classic short sutra of Mahayana Buddhism. It is concise and condensed to minimalist perfection. Who would dare to mess with it?
I guess that means me.
While the Heart Sutra sets the standard, the one thing I have always been unhappy with are the very shortcuts that give the sutra its conciseness. It takes shortcuts with reference to the 5 skandhas, the 18 dhatus (realms of senses), and the 12 nidanas (links of causation).
For the 5 skandhas, we always (ad nauseum?) hear the formula "form is emptiness; emptiness is form" stated and restated. But when do we hear "sensation is emptiness; emptiness is sensation" or "consciousness is emptiness; emptiness is consciousness"? We don't because the Heart Sutra just says "the same with sensation, perception, mental reactions, and consciousness." That shortcut of "the same with" is just what I object to.
Then when we come to the 18 dhatus and 12 nidanas we get "and so on to."
Well, I've "fixed" the problem. LOL!
There many English translations of the Heart Sutra here is the one my sangha, Rocks and Clouds Zendo, uses with the shortcuts removed and the lists restored to their full contents.
The Great Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra
Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, practicing deep Prajna Paramita,
clearly saw that all five skandhas are empty, transforming all suffering and distress.
form is exactly emptiness, emptiness exactly form;
sensation is exactly emptiness, emptiness exactly sensation;
,perception is no other than emptiness, emptiness no other than perception;
perception is exactly emptiness, emptiness exactly perception;
mental reaction is no other than emptiness, emptiness no other than mental reaction;
mental reaction is exactly emptiness, emptiness exactly mental reaction;
consciousness is no other than emptiness, emptiness no other than consciousness;
consciousness is exactly emptiness, emptiness exactly consciousness.
no color, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, no object of thought;
no seeing, no hearing, no smelling, no tasting, no touching, no thinking;,
no ignorance and also no ending of ignorance,
no mental reaction and also no ending of mental reaction,
no name and form and also no ending of name and form,
no six sensory abodes and also no ending of six sensory abodes,
no contact and also no ending of contact,
no sensations and also no ending of sensations,
no craving and also no ending of craving,
no grasping and also no ending of grasping,
no becoming and also no ending of becoming,
no birth and also no ending of birth,
no old age and death and also no ending of old age and death;
no suffering, no cause of suffering, no cessation of suffering, no path to cessation of suffering;
no wisdom and no attainment.
with no hindrance in the mind; no hindrance and therefore no fear;
far beyond delusive thinking, right here is Nirvana.
All Buddhas of past, present, and future live by Prajna Paramita,
Therefore know that Prajna Paramita
is the great sacred mantra, the great vivid mantra,
the unsurpassed mantra, the supreme mantra,
which completely removes all suffering.
Therefore set forth the Prajna Paramita mantra,
set forth this mantra and proclaim:
Gate gate paragate parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha!
Saturday, January 10, 2015
From, Nothing is Hidden: The Psychology of Zen Koans by Barry Magid:
Difference and boundary are not words that we normally value in Buddhism; they tend to stand in for everything we imagine we are supposed to overcome in the name of oneness and non separation. But how we handle difference will be one of the hallmarks of our mature practice. We can't eliminate difference and we can't blend opposites into a conflict free synthesis--or mush.
(Book review here.)
Fascinating. The valuation of words is a topic in itself. Generally, in the Zen lineage of the Buddha Dharma, words are distinguished between being living words and dead words. So, are the terms "living" and "dead" themselves words of difference or words of distinction? Is there a difference or a distinction between the words "difference" and "distinction"?
I would say that when we see "distinction as a difference" then that is distinct and different from seeing "difference as a distinction."
This is what the Sixth Ancestor Huineng was teaching in Chapter 10 of the Platform Sutra when talking about the opposites. We usually look at polarities and bifurcations as opposites that are different and separate. But Huineng teaches us that seeing the opposites as a unity whose mutual distinctions are not indicative of actual or fundamental separation is the Dharma view.
Speaking about a difference between two things (dharmas) that concludes fundamental or primary separation is giving voice to dead words. Speaking about distinctions without concluding a separation at the root is giving voice to living words. To paraphrase Huineng, if one is turned around by differences, then that is delusion. If one turns around the differences, then that is the Way.
The root is the one that is equal to zero. The twigs and leaves are distinguished.
As Layman Pang said about the snowflakes in Case 42 of the Blue Cliff Record:
Layman Pang bid adieu to Yaoshan. Shan ordered ten people who were Zen travelers to go together to the main gate to see him off. The Layman pointed to the snow in the middle of the sky and said, "The excellent snow; flake by flake it does not fall at another spot."
At that time there was Zen traveler Quan who asked, "At what spot does it fall?"
The gentleman hit once with a slap.
Quan said, "A Layman too cannot get careless."
The gentleman said, "Like this you call yourself a Zen traveler. Lao-tzu has not liberated your dependence."
Quan said, "Layman how do you make it alive?"
The gentleman again hit once with a slap and said, "The eye sees like a blind person; the mouth speaks like a mute."
Xuedou separately said, "At the first questioning point, yet grab a snowball then hit."
To discourse about it, the old wind-bag Huineng said (from Chapter 10 of The Platform Sutra):
“You who are ranked [as Dharma heirs], if you awaken in accord with this explanation; in accord with this functioning; in accord with this practice; and in accord with these doings; then you do not lose the root of the lineage.
“If there is a person asking you about a meaning, and asks about existence, go to the paired opposite of nonexistence; if asking about nonexistence, go to the paired opposite of existence. If one asks about the worldly, use the paired opposite of the saintly (the sage); if asking about the sage, use the paired opposite of the worldly. The mutual causation of the Way of dualities, gives birth to the meaning of the Middle Way. So, for a single question, a single pair of opposites, and for other questions the single (pair) that accords with this fashion, then you do not lose the principle.
“Suppose there is a person who asks, ‘What is taken for and called darkness?’ Reply and say, ‘Light is the proximate cause and darkness is the contributory cause. When light is ended, then there is darkness. By the means of light, darkness manifests; by the means of darkness, light manifests. (Their) coming and going are mutually proximate causes and become the meaning of the Middle Way.’ Other questions are without exception like this. You who are ranked among the descendants transmitting the Dharma, by relying on this teaching of turning around the characteristics you do not lose the taste of the lineage.”
For this reason too, Zen Master Dongshan set up the Five Positions as another way to deal with this question of the appearance of differences within unity.
Sunday, January 04, 2015
Often Zen students, and even some Zen teachers, are confused about the Japanese terms kensho, "to see the nature" (Japanese けんしょう ; Chinese 見性 jianxing) and satori, "to awaken" or "awakening" (Japanese さとり; Chinese 悟 wu), and assume that the terms describe enlightenment as if there is only one kind of enlightenment. In this way, some students may project onto the teacher the idea that because the teacher has experienced an awakening that is called kensho or satori therefore the teacher is fully enlightened and in some manner omniscient or infallible. This is a grave error on the part of the student, and if the teacher encourages such projections, then the teacher is putting the student into a straight jacket and chains.
In Buddhism (i.e., the Buddha Dharma), the Sanskrit term for the full enlightenment of the historical Buddha is anuttara-samyak-sambodhi (variously translated into Chinese as 阿耨多羅三藐三菩提;, 無上正等正覺, etc.). Leading all beings to realize for ourselves this awakening is the goal or aim of every Buddha manifesting in every world. In discussing the Buddha's awakening, confusion arises when people misunderstand primary aspects of awakening: (1) that awakening is essential and indispensable to the path of the Buddha, (2) that awakening is sudden and immediate in that it transcends temporal-spatial perspectives, (3) that from a temporal-spatial perspective cultivation of the path takes place both before and after awakening, and (4) that there are different degrees of awakening. Here I want to mainly address the fourth point, that there are different degrees of awakening, with some comment about how the fourth point relates to the other three points.
The term anuttara-samyak-sambodhi reveals within itself four basic degrees of enlightenment:
Because there are these distinguishable degrees of awakening, Zen Master Hakuin related stories of his own multiple great satoris as well as many minor satoris. The traditional depictions of training stages such as the Eight Jhanas, the 10 Bodhisattva Bhumis (Stations) or the 10 Ox Herding Pictures depict variations of the steps of cultivation both before and after awakening.
When we talk about step-by-step cultivation before awakening, we are talking about learning of and opening our mind to the possibility of awakening, developing our faith and confidence in awakening as a real experience, and taking the steps necessary to realizing awakening in our actual life. However, no matter how much we may wish it were so, there is no plain and simple formula for this step-by-step cultivation that is like a step-by-step process for learning to crochet or drive a car. Because awakening is essentially an unraveling of or seeing through our delusions and bifurcated false conceptualizations, and because our delusions and bifurcated conceptualizations have both a social and individual component, the general formulations of the step-by-step cultivation before awakening can only address those socially shared aspects of our ignorance with the final unraveling of our individual delusions and illusions occurring in an unformulated process. That is why Zen teacher Robert Aitken would say enlightenment happens as if by accident, but that our training makes us accident prone.
When we talk about step-by-step cultivation after awakening we are talking about the realization of the different degrees of awakening from initial bodhi to fully matured and complete anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. In Zen, the system known as Dongshan’s Five Positions (A.K.A., Tozan’s Five Ranks) is one such description of cultivation after initial awakening.
A Zen student should practice with a teacher who has at least an initial awakening kensho, and this is essential. A student may practice with another student who has not “seen the nature” but should not consider that fellow practitioner in the way as their teacher. Students should only look to someone with a modicum of awakening, whether called kensho or satori, at their teacher. However, students should not be deceived (by themselves or another) into thinking that all awakenings are equal and fungible or that training after initial enlightenment is unnecessary. This is why Zen Master Torei said:
Look! Why did the Buddha kindly, clearly, and in detail point out for you the stages of the Way? All of them are means to advance and progress in true training after Satori – the skillful means of no means, the grades of no grade. The same holds true for Tozan’s ‘Five Ranks’, for Rinzai’s ‘Four Positions of Person and Circumstance’, and his ‘Four Positions of Guest and Host’. All are stages after Satori. (From Yoko Okuda’s translation of The Discourse on The Inexhaustible Lamp of the Zen School by Zen Master Torei Enji.)
The words of the Buddhist scriptures and the Zen ancestors are the superbly skillful means of measuring the degree of our awakening. To read the Sutras is to check our own understanding against the words of the Buddha, and if there is anything that we do not understand or comprehend, then that is the measure of the shallowness or depth of our own degree of awakening. This is why Torei said:
So as to test the Dharma-Gates you have attained to, you have to check them against the Buddha's Sutras and the Treatises (Shastras), and study these again and again in detail and with insight. Always ask yourselves whether what you have attained tallies with what is said in the Sutras and Treatises.
Sunday, December 28, 2014
Western/American Buddhists need to address justifications of their existence as a distinct group within Western/American culture. The cultural conditions of India were not the same as the cultural conditions of China, Korea, and Japan, and none of them are the same as the cultural conditions of the West. It is necessary for Western Buddhists to reach some form of accommodation with Western values and sociopolitical structures and functions in order for Buddha Dharma to take root and thrive in the Western cultural ground. In China, the two main streams of cultural conditions and values that Buddhism had to address were Confucianism and Daoism. In the West, the two main streams of cultural conditions and values that Buddhists must address are the Judeo-Christian God-based theologies and scientific materialism.
On the one hand, we in the West need to engage in the two-pronged hermeneutical process of first identifying the teaching of the Buddha Dharma and then correctly interpreting it. On the other hand, we need to make accommodations to Western languages and perspectives that allow for the transplantation of Buddhist ideas without corrupting their meaning. Already in the last 50 years, we have seen examples of both successful and corrupted accommodation strategies. In my view, one of the most promising bridges for transplanting Buddha Dharma to the West and making sense of the apparently confusing variety of Buddhist schools and practices is the One Vehicle.
Avalokitesvara bodhisattva again addressed the Buddha and declared, “World Honored One. it is such that the World Honored One articulates as if the Listener-disciple Vehicle and again as if the Great Vehicle are only the One Vehicle. What is the intimate idea of this?”
Buddha told Avalokitesvara bodhisattva saying, “Good Son, it is as if from within the Listener-disciple Vehicle, that I proclaim and articulate the own-nature of every kind of the various things (dharmas), and actually designate the five clusters (skandhas), or the internal six loci, or the external six loci, and such are the classifications. Then accordingly, from within the Great Vehicle, I articulate that Dharma that is identical with the One Dharma-realm and identical with the One Universal Principle.
"For that reason, I do not articulate that the nature of the vehicles is different, or from within them that there are such words by which the false meanings may give rise to discriminating one classification [of vehicle] as aggrandized and one classification as diminished. Or again, that from various vehicles, different principles of the Way are designated that oppose each other and thus are unfolded to convey and generate disputations. So within this is what is called the intimate idea.” (T16n0676_p0708a13 to a21)
[Note: The internal six loci are the six "places" of sensory reception, and the external six loci are the six "places" of sensory data, and together the six inner loci and six outer loci are the twelve loci, the twelve ayatanas (十二處) or locations within the field of the mind.]
Saturday, November 15, 2014
I have finished the first draft of my English translation of Guṇabhadra's Chinese translation of
I've written the following dedication for the translation.
Separately, I composed the following verse in praise of the One Vehicle.
Ode to the One Vehicle
Everyone of the multitude of beings in every case has Buddha Nature
And without exception are led to enter the Way of the One Vehicle.
Always silent and always illuminating.
Directly pointing to one’s own mind immediately reveals true nature,
And opens the knowing and seeing of the Buddha.
With the worldly and the sacred one and the same,
Only the Bodhidharma lineage transmits the inheritance by means of mind.
The mind is the fountainhead of the Dharma.
Then thought after thought in every case is the One Buddha Vehicle.
If that mind is entirely extinguished,
There is no vehicle as well as someone in the vehicle.
All things are completely the evidentiary things of the One Mind.
The One Mind is completely the One Mind of all things.
All things completely then are True Mind.
By flowing unobstructed, consequently all things are wonderful medicine.
Therefore all things are like appearances in the mirror.
The essence of the one true heart-mind
Is indeed one’s own essence of true suchness.
That which is Dharma knows the One Vehicle.
In every case consider the Dharma of the One Vehicle as the real truth
Likewise, the One Vehicle necessarily includes the various vehicles;
While the various vehicles do not reach the One Vehicle
Because the various vehicles immediately are the One Vehicle,
Those who gain the One Vehicle
Gain the unexcelled unified equality-enlightenment (anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi),
Always abiding in the Dharma-realm,
Able to touch and yet immediately to pass through.
Saturday, September 27, 2014
In an important essay on our Summer of White Supremacy , author Bridgett Davis surveys the United States of Fear that many of our citizens must live within. However, by its own terminology and frame of reference, the article contains the seed of its own failure because it adopts the falsehood at the core of white supremacy, that is, it assumes the very core of the model of reality, i.e., the premise of "race," that white supremacy created to foster its ideological goals. As long as we continue to assume the framework that race exists, then we have adopted and clothed ourselves in the framework of the white supremacy movement, and we are subtly promoting the very perspective that we are against.
Put another way, a black and white television is a colorblind television; so if we don't want to be colorblind, then we need to get out of the framework of seeing the world of human diversity in the colorblind terminology of "black" and "white." The very slogan "the denial of black humanity" actually does deny the humanity of everyone in the category of "black" by its own framework. Humanity can not be divided into "black humanity" and "white humanity," and to divide humanity so only falls into the scheme created by white supremacy. Thus, even as one would argue for the equal humanity of black humanity, one has already given into and adopted the falsehood of the ideological model of the white supremacists, i.e., that there is a "white humanity" and a "black humanity" instead of only one humanity that comes in many different colors, none of which are "white" or "black."
Here's a simple test. If you think you are "white," then just place your hand on a sheet of plain white paper and tell me that your hand is the same color. Obviously, it is not. When you can state the color of your hand as it really is, without using the word "white," then you will have liberated yourself from the colorblind state of mind that the white supremacists have brainwashed people with for centuries.
Similarly, for those who of you who think you are "black." When you can state your own skin color without using the word "black" and refer to people of European ancestry without the fake name "white", then you will have liberated yourselves from the colorblind state of mind that the white supremacists have brainwashed us with for centuries.
Until we throw off the imaginative and linguistic shackles of the mind that force us to view people and speak of them as "white" or "black," we will never be able to free ourselves from the worldview created by white supremacists and prevent white supremacy from continuing to reign supreme in our land.
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Somewhere along the way, the English speaking media thought that "Islamic State" sounded like a better enemy than either "ISIS" or "ISIL," so that name began to be bandied about as well. Apparently the leadership of al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham also thought that "Islamic State" sounded much cooler and tougher and now we hear that they have shortened their name to just al-Dawla al-Islamiya and they want to be called Islamic State in English.
But is "Islamic State" a correct translation for "al-Dawla al-Islamiya"? Originally the word "al-dawla" meant "reign" or "dynasty," referring to the reign or dynasty of the current caliph. But in the modern times of secular states with no caliphs or caliphate to reign in dynasties, the term has been used to indicate the sovereignty of the secular state. However, since the specific goal of al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham is to create a caliphate and not a secular state, the term "al-Dawla al-Islamiya" should be translated into English according to the earlier meaning as "Islamic Dynasty" not the secular meaning of "Islamic State." It would make a very different impression if we were hearing about a group accurately named "Islamic Dynasty" rather than "Islamic State."
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Thursday, July 10, 2014
I see the trees bend. I feel the sun. I hear the birds sing. I see my daughter skip before me. I feel joy in the moment. But is that joy illusory; transient and born of the cravings of the self, or is it zen itself, the illusion stripped away and the universe revealed?
I struggle with this simple question.
Great simple question, that because of its very simplicity, will evoke very different and contradictory responses!
The word "joy" can refer to selfish illusions or the true nature of the universe revealed.
The Sutra of Queen Srimala's Lion's Roar says joy is one of the paramitas of the Dharmakaya. So there is nothing wrong with joy. By a paramita of the Dharmakaya is meant that joy can carry us over to the other shore of the true suchness of the Dharmakaya.
But of course we can have illusions of and about joy just like we can have illusions about everything based on our antithetical polarized conceptions.
To struggle with this question is an example of the natural arising of a koan of life (genjo koan). Keep the "don't know" of inquiring doubt alongside the faith in joy as a manifestation of suchness and resolve the apparent dilemma on your own with the struggle of determined practice.
Someone else responded to the first question with:
Joy and happiness and suffering are all things that change.
The saying goes, "This too shall pass." Transient.
Born of greed, hatred, ignorance.
To which I replied:
This presumes the definition of "joy" as something belonging on the list of all things that change. Joy is definitely not something born of the three poisons of greed, hatred, and ignorance, so it doesn't belong on the list.
Actually, joy never changes, it is only our thoughts about joy that change. The never beginning and never ending continual radiation of the joy of the Dharmakaya is like the light of the sun always shining but being obscured by clouds or by the rotation of the earth.
When we see the trees bending in the wind, the beauty of the flowers, or the zest of the children and these bring us joy, that joy is the joy of the Dharmakaya manifesting. If we mistake that joy as being dependent on the trees, the flowers, and the children, then we are mistaking joy for something that is impermanent and changing because we are confusing true and genuine joy with the object that is associated with arousing our recollection of the joy of awakening! That confusion is what is born by the three poisons, not the joy.