Sunday, November 17, 2019

A New Buddha for Boundless Way Temple

photo by Chad Cook

Last night, at Boundless Way Temple, about forty people from our community, including families and children and friends,  witnessed the Eye-Opening Ceremony for our new altar Buddha.  The painted wooden statue is pictured in the center of the photo to the left, surrounded by Mike Fieleke, Sensei, me, David Rynick, Roshi and Bob Waldinger, Sensei.

The Buddha was donated by Paula Moreau, a neighbor, who had received it from her late mother, a follower of the Dalai Lama, and a collector of Buddhas.

Led by our ino (chant-leader) Corwyn Miyagishima, we chanted the Heart Sutra, and Mike Sensei and Bob Sensei recited a special Return of Merit.  Then the teachers and Rev. Paul Galvin recited the ten names of the Buddha.  Many people offered thanks to our old Buddha, and gratitude for our Boundless Way Temple and community.

Here is the ancient text recited at the ceremony by Rev. Paul Galvin, after we served the Buddha his tea and sweet water.

        The body of the Bodhisattva is the intense expression of Buddha's vows.
The world of the ten directions is immeasurably vast.
The boat of compassion is always rowed in this place.
Within the swirl of the sea of delusion
the Dharma Wheel is constantly turning.

David and I painted the eyes of the new Buddha with ink and water, the traditional way of opening the eyes of a Buddha statue and welcoming him to his new home.  Our old Buddha has sat on our altar for the last ten years, since the opening of the Temple.  He has now retired to the Temple hallway, where he greets new-comers and presides over our announcements table.  He is still smiling, but hasn't said anything, so we can only assume that he is happy in his new role.

At the end, this Return of Merit was recited by Corwyn:

                In the dharma world the Buddha body is all-pervading
Appearing everywhere yet not obstructing the myriad beings
Reaching everywhere in accord with conditions and feelings
And yet never moving from the seat of enlightenment
Thus the Buddha’s sea of merit is beyond veneration.
On this occasion of celebrating the Eye Opening of Shakyamuni Buddha
We the community of Boundless Way Temple,
have chanted together the Heart of Great Wisdom Beyond Wisdom
And reverently offered incense, flowers, candlelight, tea and sweet water.
May Shakyamuni Buddha protect the world,
Illuminating all constantly, fully manifesting bodhi mind,
Encouraging us to be timelessly joyful, peaceful,
and in harmony with all living beings.
May the community inside and outside be soothed
May our aspiration for living the Buddha Way increase,
And may awakening be accomplished with all living beings.

Following the ceremony, we had a Zen party, with delicious snacks contributed from many people, coordinated by Joanne Hart.

Friday, November 15, 2019

The Virtue of Abusive Words

Every few days a poem with a wise commentary arrives in my in-box from Ivan M. Granger, the curator of Poetry Chaikhana.   Here is one that arrived today.  The timing of the universe is excellent, as always. Please consider supporting his work with a contribution, and subscribing to his list-serve.  Information can be found here:  www.Poetry-Chaikhana.com

Below is todays' poem with Ivan's commentary:


 When I consider the virtue of abusive words (from The Shodoka)
By Hsuan Chueh of Yung Chia / Yoka Genkaku
(665 - 713)
English version by Robert Aitken

When I consider the virtue of abusive words,
I find the scandal-monger is my good teacher.
If we do not become angry at gossip,
We have no need for powerful endurance and compassion.
To be mature in Zen is to be mature in expression,
And full-moon brilliance of dhyana and prajna
Does not stagnate in emptiness.
Not only can I take hold of complete enlightenment by myself,
But all Buddha-bodies, like sands of the Ganges,
Can become awakened in exactly the same way.

Ivan M. Granger's commentary:  This opening line is meant to be humorous. I picture the Buddhist monks of China and Japan laughing as they read this short poetic discourse on "the virtue of abusive words."

But the poet is also saying something very important to the sincere spiritual aspirant.

I find the scandal-monger is my good teacher.

People who offend us, who spread rumors and lies, those we might think of as enemies or petty tyrants are sometimes our best teachers. They continuously pressure test the maturity of our practice.

It is easy to go along thinking, 'Oh, my meditation is getting so deep and I think such kind thoughts about people,' but when someone offends that carefully constructed spiritual facade, do we instantly boil over with outrage? Does it suddenly become essential that we correct their false perception of us?

No matter how offensive or cruel the other person may be acting, our reaction is about ego. Are we getting proper acknowledgment for who we are and what we have accomplished? -Which is a question only the ego asks.

The poet then says something especially interesting:

If we do not become angry at gossip,
We have no need for powerful endurance and compassion.


All of that spiritual practice we do to endure upset and hold our thoughts safely within the bounds of compassion, it is all really about making the mind spiritually acceptable in its patterns. That certainly has its importance, but it is ultimately a path of frustration. The mind that emerges from the ego-self is never tamed, it is always selfish and me-focused, always quick to anger in order to reassert itself as the center of importance.

If we truly learn to let go of all of our pretense and self-importance, however, the instinct to get upset at everything, including what is malicious, falls away. And then there is no need to work so hard at enduring offense or somehow squeezing compassion from a constricted heart. Endurance becomes natural patience with the world. And compassion is simply recognized as inherent within the universe and not the result of our own heavy effort.

To be mature in Zen is to be mature in expression

When we have truly matured in our awakening, when we have allowed the endless tensions that comprise the ego-self to fall away, along with its tendencies toward offense, then our expression becomes natural, fluid, without effort.

And full-moon brilliance of dhyana and prajna
Does not stagnate in emptiness.


Dhyana is meditation, and prajna can be translated as clarity. When we become mature in our practice and realization, we are flooded with a brilliant light that is often compared with the full moon.

When our practice is too much about effort and harsh control, there is the tendency to stagnate, to get caught up in our patterns of policing everything about our thoughts and actions. A certain amount of that approach is an important discipline, but we can't make the mistake of becoming totalitarian toward our own psychic energies. The goal is not greater or more perfect effort but, instead, to become effortless, to drop the self-important, self-focused self and, with supreme humility, settle into our true nature -- from which our inherent compassion and goodness naturally flow.

Not only can I take hold of complete enlightenment by myself,
But all Buddha-bodies, like sands of the Ganges,
Can become awakened in exactly the some way.


So you see, those people who irritate us, who offend us, even those who attack us, they should be among our most cherished teachers. They poke holes in the ego. They deflate our pretenses. They passionately remind us that we are not the psychic facades with which we wrap ourselves. They test us with an intensity missing from other teachers. They show us the pathway to selflessness and, thus, are highly charged agents of enlightenment.

(Caveat: I don't want to suggest that one should passively accept cruelty or violence or remain in the presence people caught up in toxic patterns. The point here is to recognize what in ourselves we are defending. Personal safety and basic self-value are important and should be protected. But when it is our own self-importance that feels threatened, perhaps it is an opportunity to laugh at ourselves instead.)

Praise to those who irritate us! (Grumble.)

Ivan


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Ivan M. Granger's original poetry, stories and commentaries are Copyright © 2002 - 2019 by Ivan M. Granger.
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Thursday, October 24, 2019

Ripening Sangha Sesshin

photo by Corwyn Miyagishima

The gang from our recent sesshin at Boundless Way Temple, which our tanto (head of practice) Rev. Paul Galvin named "Ripening Sangha Sesshin."  These intensive practice periods are an important part of our Zen practice, and everyone who attended was touched and deepened by this weekend.  Our next sesshin, in December,  is now open for registration:  December sesshin  Hope to see you there!

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Happiness and Suffering Arising Together


Yarrow Flower at Boundless Way Temple, photo by Jenny Smith
A dear friend and I were recently talking about the word "dukkha" -- the First Noble Truth of the Buddha, which literally means "out of balance" like a wheel on a cart that is not on straight, and so makes the sound "duk, duk, duk" as it travels down the road.  Dukkha has most often, in the West, been translated as "suffering" and it also has the meaning of "uncomfortable."  The range of dukkha is wide -- from unbearable physical pain to a mild sense that something is wrong.  As the concept of dukkha has travelled to the West it has changed its meaning from a description of a perceived reality that is universal to a purely psychological, private phenomenon.  Only noticing our own dukkha prevents us from opening our hearts to a world  on fire -- our attempts at blocking the reality of universal suffering keep our hearts protected, but don't allow us to face the suffering that arises everywhere.  The heart of a bodhisattva, a wisdom being who is devoted to healing suffering, must learn to open to this universal sense of something being wrong, even when happiness arises in our hearts and in our personal lives.  Happiness and dukkha can exist together, and the happiness that includes dukkha has a different taste than a happiness that is carefully guarded and kept to oneself.

Today I have a cold, and the wind and rain are wild and untamed.  Children are dying on the Syrian border, and in many other places.  People are being cruel to each other in endlessly creative ways, ranging from physical violence to nasty words exchanged on Twitter.  And, and, and -- a friend sent a photo of a yarrow flower at the Temple giving a home to many different insects.  The sky changes from gray to blue, and the clouds move through the sky.  My nostrils clear, and I can breath with ease, and then my nose starts to run.  Personal, universal, grief, joy -- all moving in an out of awareness.  This is the life of a bodhisattva.  Don't ignore any part of this wild and moving life.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Fish Mystery



When I was young I loved a series of books called "Minute Mysteries."  Each page had a set of clues, and the reader's job was to put things together to figure out what had happened.  Two famous examples go like this:

1. A father and son are in a car accident and are rushed to the hospital.  When they arrive, the doctor on call says, "I can't operate on this boy -- he's my son."  How can this be?

2.  There is a man walking down the road dressed entirely in black. There are no lights on anywhere and no moon. A car with no lights comes down the road and manages to avoid the man. How?  (The answers are at the end of this post, if you've never heard them or can't figure them out.)

This tendency of the human mind to be able to piece together disconnected elements to form a whole has been invaluable evolutionarily, for sure.  Our ancestors used it to avoid danger, track game and find useful plants.  And we use it to create valid scenarios that help us explain our lives to ourselves.  Mysteries are still popular and we admire people, who, like Sherlock Holmes or mechanical engineers, can put together clues and solve problem.  Most of the time, the stories we create are not accurate reflections of reality, and sometimes even do harm, but we can't stop making them.  We can, however, know clearly that they are stories, and find freedom in the questioning, the making of them, and in doubting them.

A few weeks ago the fish in our pond, five beautiful koi pictured in the video above taken by Adam Monty, disappeared.  The pond is on an acre of land behind the Temple surrounded by wild and lovingly cultivated gardens, open to the public during the day for silent contemplation and walking.  The fish had started to become quite tame, coming up to the edge of the pond to eat fish food out of our hands.  There were two children's bikes abandoned near the pond, and a golf ball sitting deep in the middle.  One of us had noticed a huge flock of migrating birds alighting on the pond earlier that week.  Where were the fish?  What had happened to them?  We even called the police, who were very kind and said they wouldn't report a fish theft but we should call them anytime we were concerned about people doing unwanted things in the garden.  And then three of the fish returned later that night, just for a moment, having been hiding out in their fish cave at the bottom of the pond.  It took a few weeks for them all to appear and to start swimming around again, and they are still very skittish.  They don't eat out of our hands any more, and head for the cave when they detect anyone nearby.

Naturally, people came up with theories.  Here are just a few:

The children stole the fish.
The birds ate the fish.
The children went into the pond to retrieve the golf ball, and scared the fish.
The birds scared the fish.
Stop making up stories about what happened to the fish!

And, my personal favorite:

The fish ate the children, and it took them a couple of weeks to digest them.

We may never know, but the solutions to the minute mysteries highlight how easily we can miss what's right in front of us.  Solution number 1:  The doctor is the boy's mother.  And number 2.  It's the middle of the day.

We human beings have this amazing capacity, which is impossible to stop without inflicting brain trauma, but without which we'd be much less human.  Facing mystery, we want explanations.    Sometimes, the questioning is everything and appreciating the creativity of the human mind without taking things too seriously, is the way of play in the fields of freedom.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Junk Store Buddha

Junk Store Buddha

Buddhas appear everywhere, and that's very much in keeping with the Mahayana concept of Buddha Fields.  Everywhere we look are Buddhas, awakened ones, and sometimes they actually look like our concept of a Buddha:  for example, this statue like the one we recently saw at a junk store in a small New England town we were passing through.  (We inquired about the purchase price but it was not for sale -- so, priceless!)

But mostly Buddhas look like every single thing -- dogs and cats and clouds and flowers and trash and birth and death.  If everything is a Buddha, how can we ever complain about our lives?  Except that we do, because thoughts and emotions and sense perceptions are also Buddhas, and a complaint is equal to a joyous liberating experience.  So, the instruction is, see everything as an example of the great awakening that fills the universe.  No exceptions!  Everything is the awakened heart!

Monday, August 19, 2019

Ten Years at Boundless Way Temple


On this date, August 19, 2009, David and I bought the building that became Boundless Way Temple the very next day.  Our first sesshin was held here that October.  After a few years, the Temple and Boundless Way organizations had grown strong enough that we were able to sell the building to the sangha, and we have been fortunate to be able to continue to live here as the guiding teachers.  Looking back at all the changes over the years, I am amazed by our survival.

Here is some inspiration from one of our Zen ancestors, Torei Zenji, who encourages us to persist in our devotion to the Great Way, no matter what may happen.

TOREI ZENJI: BODHISATTVA'S VOW

I am only a simple disciple, but I offer these respectful words:

When I look deeply
into the real form of the universe,
everything reveals the mysterious truth of the Tathagata.
This truth never fails:
in every moment and every place
things can't help but shine with this light.

Realizing this, our ancestors gave reverent care
to animals, birds, and all beings.
Realizing this, we ourselves know that our daily food,
clothing and shelter are the warm body and beating heart of the Buddha.
How can we be ungrateful to anyone or anything?
Even though someone may be a fool,
we can be compassionate.
If someone turns against us,
speaking ill of us and treating us bitterly,
it's best to bow down:
this is the Buddha appearing to us,
finding ways to free us from our own attachments—
the very ones that have made us suffer
again and again and again.

Now on each flash of thought
a lotus flower blooms,
and on each flower: a Buddha.
The light of the Tathagata
appears before us, soaking into our feet.

May we share this mind with all beings
so that we and the world together
may grow in wisdom.