Monday, March 30, 2015

Zen Practice is a Lie Revealing Truth

Monday, March 23, 2015

Being At Ease

By Elihu Genmyo Smith

Our life is being at ease, joyous.

This doesn’t mean easy. At ease. At ease is the nature of life - and it is necessary “to be” at ease. Dogen Zenji writes in Fukan Zazengi, “Zazen (sitting Zen) is the Dharma gate of ease and joy.” Often our life does not seem at ease, joy; instead it seems dis-ease - “dis” in the sense of negate - believing what is not, a disease of believing stories about likes and dislikes, believing differences, and suffering without seeing the ease and joy of differences.

At a Smith family gathering, I meet lots of Smiths; Sara, Sam, David, and so forth. If I only pay attention to the Sara, Sam, I may notice the differences among them, and may react to these differences. However, if I attend to the fact that we are all “Smith”, I notice we are all the same. The fundamental truth of our life is we are the same and we are different. Differences include sameness, and sameness includes differences. 
Therefore, while attending to the differences I am aware of the Smith sameness, knowing that we are a gathering of Smiths. While noticing or saying Smith, I also attend to the David of David Smith, the Sara of Sara Smith - otherwise I will mix them up and when I want to bring food to a hungry David may bring it to satiated Sam or even worse to allergic Sara. To David Smith I say David and know it includes Smith – no need to say Smith; I could say Smith and know it includes David. So, I need not react to the “Davidness” - because he is also Smith. And we need to see clearly (or hazily), David is just David – nothing else; Smith is just Smith - nothing else. Unfortunately we are used to attaching and reacting to differences, to what we believe they are and are not, what they should and should not be - and this often results in difficulties; therefore it is important in life, in ongoing Zen practice, to clarify sameness, experience sameness. And please do not get stuck on sameness.

My teacher Soen Nakagawa Roshi often said, “We are all members of the same nose-hole society.” Yes, there is Reuben, David and Bella. And we are all the same nose-hole society. If we miss this nose-hole society we get difficulties. And this nose-hole society extends in many directions, myriad realms, myriad beings. This is so right now; please clarify this! Nose-hole society is right now David; David right now is nose-hole. If you are holding or reacting to David or even holding or reacting to nose-hole, please turn this holding/reacting and look, “who” is holding/reacting?

In Zen Buddhist tradition, in receiving Jukai/precepts we are affirming being part of the same family. Jukai does not make us part of the same family but we acknowledge this is so. In China, Japan and elsewhere, on being ordained one often takes the family name Shakya in some form (the name of the historical Buddha’s family), making clear this commonality that we share, that is all the many different “forms”, myriad beings, that we are. Different “forms” of this Buddha nature, this right now: life, death, healthy, ill, achy, weak, strong, vigorous, sad, grieving, not-born, not-destroyed - the many “forms” not-anywhere-else. Acknowledging and living this may not be easy, and therefore our practice life includes being at ease in “not-easy.” As Dogen states in “Shoji” (life – death), “Life is life of the Buddha; death is life of the Buddha.”

When we habitually don’t recognize the commonality of different forms, we make a big deal of the particular forms we prefer and attach to, the particular “first” names of those we meet. The Third Zen Ancestor Sengcan said “Since no dharma is essentially different from any other, only the deluded cling and attach themselves to them” (Xinxin Ming).

Self-centeredness, clinging and attaching are a reacting to particulars which creates suffering and which we must clarify. Those behaviors and attitudes result in missing this right now not-essentially different. “Those who possess insight are always without doings. Only people who create foolishness for themselves tie themselves into knots.” Tie themselves into knots because they take the differences they believes as the whole truth, as reality – only seeing the first name and not seeing the family name. Then they are blinkered and blinded, seeing and reacting in a one-sided manner. And we can be blinkered and one-sidedly blinded if attached to and reacting to sameness - this too must be clarified.

Being at ease is being right now, to be ease and joy now, where and how we are; this is what zazen offers, supports and reminds us. The opportunity in the midst of this particularity, this particular condition moment, being this ease and joy, being “without doings” we always are. Recognizing the family that we share with all beings – experiencing right here, right now.

All of us are this ease and joy. That’s why Dogen writes, “Zazen,” or practice, “is the dharma gate.” It does not create ease and joy, but is our entry into where we always are, this here now – unless we are blinded and only seeing the conditions and circumstances. “Although this inconceivable dharma is abundant in each person,” in each circumstance and condition we encounter, “it is not manifested without practice and it is not attained without attesting to,” without actualizing awakening. It is for us to be and manifest the Buddha we are. And what is this? He says it a few sentences later. “All Buddhas continuously abide in it, but do not leave any trace of perceiving in their illumination. Sentient beings continuously move about in it, but illumination is not manifested in their perceiving.” Do we abide, or do we miss it? Being awake is abiding as is, not leaving trace. If we miss who we are, we miss our life.

At ease is being at ease as the arising circumstance, or making the practice effort that is called for when we refuse to be so. And how do we know we are refusing? When we are caught up, habitually reacting and upset, suffering. And the Dharma gate is very simple. It is non-verbal experiencing this moment. In Bendowa Dogen writes, “The endeavor of the way that I am speaking of allows all things to come forth in attesting and transcending attesting, put into practice this suchness which we are,” - this right now not-two; experiencing/actualizing is going beyond.

Ancestors encourage us this breath, this moment, to attest to life. Our ongoing effort includes effort with the dis-ease when that arises for us, whether the dis-ease of bodily or mental conditions, whether what is happening to me or what other people are doing, whether so-called being alive or so-called dying. Being right now is being at ease, experiencing is being at ease.

A practice point is with “hardened ideas” that we force the universe into when we see some characteristics or conditions, even sameness, as self or other. In reacting to it, we make the whole universe into a solid dis-ease, and miss this gate of ease and joy of our encounters from morning to night. Our first Great Vow is liberating all beings. This is our bodhisattva practice. Liberating from what? From the delusion of hardened dis-ease which results in missing this life. If we hold on to our dis-ease, this doesn’t allow myriad beings to be at ease, joyous.

Experiencing this life, at family gatherings we recognize all the family members that we meet. Not holding to liking, disliking - we only encounter our family. If we don’t see this life we are, this ongoing family gathering, we make fools of our self and others.

Though one could say, “Sitting still and upright is hard” as if this is the truth of it, Dogen reminds us, zazen is just the dharma gate of ease and joy, the dharma gate of enabling and supporting experiencing conditions arising, of being awake as our true nature. If I use stinky words, this is recognizing and being the absolute manifesting in this particular difference, this allows the conditioned to reveal the unconditioned. It is allowing all things to come forth. Of course, conditioned and unconditioned are not-two; there is no absolute and no differences.

I heard that Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, when he was dying of cancer, said that his practice was making friends with his cancer – and he felt he had made friends with his cancer. This includes making friends with, being intimate with, what might accompany cancer. My own practice today is making friends and being intimate with my cancer and the accompanying conditions which arise; the forms of pain if and when that arises, physical and mental debilitation when that arises, loss when that arises – this is my ongoing practice, being at ease and joy with what might otherwise be called dis-ease.

Please reflect on what I said in terms of your practice. You have all been sitting at ease, yes, - - or you haven’t? If not, see what practice efforts are called for to “not-hold” to the “dis-ing” of the ease. What is called for to notice and experience the reactions and reactive habits that keep us in the contraction and mental/physical states that might blind us? This is the dharma gate that allows illumination to manifest. This allows the abundant Dharma that we are. And we can and must do what allows us to manifest this Bodhisattva life.

© 2015 Elihu Genmyo Smith

Buddha Wisdom Life - A Dharma talk

Sunday, March 22, 2015

To Reduce Violence and the Murder of Muslims by Muslims

An analytical article with interesting proposals.

"Why Islam Needs a Reformation

To defeat the extremists for good, Muslims must reject those aspects of their tradition that prompt some believers to resort to oppression and holy war."

Here is the full article:

Thursday, March 12, 2015

"Chinese Communist Party leaders are afraid that the Dalai Lama will not have an afterlife."

That is the opening line for an article which seems to come from a satirical paper, except that it does not.

"HONG KONG — Chinese Communist Party leaders are afraid that the Dalai Lama will not have an afterlife. Worried enough that this week, officials repeatedly warned that he must reincarnate, and on their terms.

Tensions over what will happen when the 14th Dalai Lama, who is 79, dies, and particularly over who decides who will succeed him as the most prominent leader in Tibetan Buddhism, have ignited at the annual gathering of China’s legislators in Beijing.

Officials have amplified their argument that the Communist government is the proper guardian of the Dalai Lama’s succession through an intricate process of reincarnation that has involved lamas, or senior monks, visiting a sacred lake and divining dreams.

Party functionaries were incensed by the exiled Dalai Lama’s recent speculation that he might end his spiritual lineage and not reincarnate. That would confound the Chinese government’s plans to engineer a succession that would produce a putative 15th Dalai Lama who accepts China’s presence and policies in Tibet. Their anger welled up on Wednesday, as it had a day earlier.
A portrait of the Dalai Lama. He has suggested that he might not be reincarnated. Credit Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters
Zhu Weiqun, a Communist Party official who has long dealt with Tibetan issues, told reporters in Beijing on Wednesday that the Dalai Lama had, essentially, no say over whether he was reincarnated. That was ultimately for the Chinese government to decide, he said, according to a transcript of his comments on the website of People’s Daily, the party’s main newspaper.

“Decision-making power over the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, and over the end or survival of this lineage, resides in the central government of China,” said Mr. Zhu, formerly a deputy head of the United Front Department of the Communist Party, which oversees dealings with religious and other nonparty groups. He now leads the ethnic and religious affairs committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, an advisory body that meets at the same time as the Legislature, or National People’s Congress.
Mr. Zhu accused the Dalai Lama of trampling on sacred traditions.
“In religious terms, this is a betrayal of the succession of Dalai Lamas in Tibetan Buddhism,” he said.
“The 14th Dalai Lama has taken an extremely frivolous and disrespectful attitude toward this issue,” Mr. Zhu continued. “Where in the world is there anyone else who takes such a frivolous attitude toward his own succession?”

The idea of Communist Party officials defending the precepts of reincarnation and hurling accusations of heresy at the Dalai Lama might have Marx turning in his grave. The party is committed to atheism in its ranks, though it accepts religious belief in the public. And President Xi Jinping has declared his fealty to Marxist-Leninist dialectical materialism.

But the dispute over reincarnation has profound implications for Beijing and its hold over Tibetan areas, where protests and self-immolations have brought into focus simmering discontent. The Chinese government is determined to manage all aspects of Tibetan Buddhist tradition, including the most sacred rituals of succession, to ensure that the restive region remains firmly under Chinese control.
Party leaders would prefer to insert themselves surreptitiously into a succession process that carries the full weight of Tibetan tradition than to install a new Dalai Lama by fiat, which would almost certainly undermine the new religious leader’s credibility inside Tibet.

So if the incumbent Dalai Lama, who remains revered in Tibet more than half a century after he fled into exile in 1959, uses his clout to nullify the historic selection process, China faces the prospect of continuing discontent there after his death. It would in essence be a last act of defiance by the Dalai Lama.
“I don’t think the Dalai Lama would mind if you saw this through the prism of Monty Python,” Robert Barnett, director of the modern Tibetan studies program at Columbia University, said in a telephone interview. “But he is reminding the Chinese that, from his perspective and the perspective of probably nearly all Tibetans, the Chinese don’t really have a credible role in deciding these things.”

The Dalai Lama has not commented on the latest warnings from China. But Lobsang Sangay, the prime minister of the Tibetan government in exile, based in Dharamsala, in northern India, was scathing on Tuesday, after the governor of the Tibetan autonomous region, Padma Choling, told reporters that the Dalai Lama had profaned the Tibetan Buddhist faith by suggesting that he might not be reincarnated.

“It’s like Fidel Castro saying, ‘I will select the next pope and all the Catholics should follow.’ That is ridiculous,” Mr. Sangay told Reuters on Tuesday. “It’s none of Padma Choling or any of the Communist Party’s business, mainly because Communism believes in atheism and religion being poisonous.”
The Dalai Lama turns 80 in July, and as he has advanced in years, he and the Chinese government have both probably kept in mind the example of the succession of Panchen Lama, another senior figure in Tibetan Buddhism. After the 10th Panchen Lama died in 1989, the Dalai Lama confirmed a boy in Tibet as the next reincarnation in 1995. But the Chinese government hid away that boy and his parents and installed its own choice as the Panchen Lama. The Dalai Lama has indicated that he does not want to experience the same fate.

“Whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should continue or not is up to the Tibetan people,” the Dalai Lama said in an interview with the BBC in December. “There is no guarantee that some stupid Dalai Lama won’t come next, who will disgrace himself or herself. That would be very sad. So, much better that a centuries-old tradition should cease at the time of a quite popular Dalai Lama.”

Since 1995, the Chinese authorities have claimed an increasingly active role in the succession of the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan Buddhist leaders, Mr. Barnett said. Under the Qing dynasty, he said, the Manchu emperors who ruled China maintained a limited role in confirming the succession of the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan Buddhist leaders, but the Communist Party has demanded an increasingly hands-on role in intricate rituals of succession.

“They finally ended up with the state deciding whether people could reincarnate,” he said. “The lamas are left with a role that is in a way token in that process.”

Tibetans are sure to reject any future putative Dalai Lama picked by the Chinese government, Dicki Chhoyang, the head of the Department of Information and International Relations of the Tibetan government in exile in Dharamsala, said in an interview.

“The person selected by the Chinese government is just as much a victim of the situation as anyone, so there’s nothing personal held against that person,” she said. “Communism, in theory, is atheist, so we’re just like, ‘This is too much.’ ”

Tibetans, however, remain convinced that the Dalai Lama will ultimately continue his lineage of leading monks of the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism, a succession that dates from the 14th century, Mr. Barnett said. The Dalai Lama’s warnings on succession, he said, are best understood as a way of encouraging Tibetans to focus on the issue and the options.

“The Tibetan people would never have faith in a so-called reincarnation appointed by the Chinese government,” Tsering Woeser, a Tibetan author based in Beijing who is critical of Beijing’s policies in her homeland, said in an online interview. “But I believe that the Dalai Lama will reincarnate.”