Sunday, January 25, 2009

Everything is Best

When Banzan was walking through a market he overheard a conversation between a butcher and his customer.
"Give me the best piece of meat you have," said the customer.
"Everything in my shop is the best," replied the butcher. "You cannot find here any piece of meat that is not the best."
At these words Banzan was enlightened.
(Taken from 'Zen Flesh, Zen Bones', by Reps and Senzaki)

Like old Banzan, if we look with a pure eye - the Eye of Dharma - everything is best. That doesn't mean we shouldn't work to improve on things, for even such activity is part of the perfection of the moment. We are entering the realm of 'suchness' when we open the Dharma Eye: everything is thus, is best. The weather is 'just so', these thoughts, sensations, and emotions are 'just so'. Everything, as the butcher says, is best.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Saltwater Buddha

All this time I had thought that “I” was doing the thinking, that I was perfectly in control. But just like the sea doesn’t control the waves, my thoughts seemed to move on their own. A Zen meditation book I read in a bookstore instructed, “Simply observe your thoughts like water in a river, like clouds passing in an empty sky.” That sounded nice—but watching my scattered thoughts was more like being an amateur stenographer during a Congressional debate: “Um, excuse me, people, yeah, could you just slow down a lit—Excuse me! Please!

(An extract from the forthcoming book Saltwater Buddha, by Jaimal Yogis)

Jaimal Yogis, the author of the soon-to-be-published book Saltwater Buddha, sent me an electronic copy of the work for me to review. I was very impressed with what I read (which was the whole book). Jaimal has managed to fuse two apparently entirely different interests – Buddhism & surfing – into a wonderful account of his journey of awakening. The book has an engaging narrative that weaves through the author’s adventures rather like a surfer navigating ferocious waves, describing how as an idealistic teenager he ran away to Hawaii, and gradually cultivated skill in both surfing and meditation.

Along with Jaimal’s own life story, he also recites the major events in the life of the Buddha, as well as the essential teachings that have shaped the Buddhdharma over the past two and a half millennia. He manages to do this with a large dollop of panache, making the book a real joy to read, all the while encouraging the reader to want to find out just how it all works out for Jaimal. And how does it all work out? You’ll have to get the book to find out! All in all, Saltwater Buddha comes with a big thumbs-up from me; it is entertaining and thought-provoking, even if you’re a meditating land lubber like me!

Saltwater Buddha: A Surfer’s Quest to Find Zen on the Sea, by Jaimal Yogis, will be available in May 2009, from Wisdom Publications.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

This Ghostly Existence

All conditioned phenomena

Are like dreams, illusions, bubbles,

Like dew drops and a lightning flash:

Contemplate them thus.

(The Diamond Sutra)

Each moment contains the ephemeral phenomena that are born, live, and die. Watching the objects of sight, whether people, cars, animals, or the weather, they are seen to come and go. They are indeed like dreams and illusions; bubbles that quickly burst into nothingness. And what of the mind? Thoughts, feelings, memories, fantasies – they are akin to dew drops melting away in the sun of awareness, gone in a lightning flash. Reflecting on the nature of everything that we see, hear, taste, touch, smell, and think, we can see not only their ghostly existence, but also our own. This is wisdom.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Living Buddha

We hear the words and don’t really know what they are about. It gets confusing – Dharma is Buddha, Buddha is Dharma. But the truth is like this. At first, there was no Buddha. When he realized Dharma, he was given the title Buddha. Before that, he was Prince Siddhattha Gotama. We are the same. We are called Joe or Alice or perhaps Prince so-and-so, but if we realize the Dharma then we too are Buddha, no different from him. So understand that the Buddha is still living. (Ajahn Chah*)

In the Dharma, the Buddhist teachings, we have the living presence of the Buddha. The historical Buddha, the man who lived and died over two and a half millennia ago, is no longer with us, but there is also the Buddha that never dies – the innate, deathless awareness that lies beyond our delusional selves. This living Buddha is also the living Dharma, the expression of truth that arises from awakening to the reality of the present moment. And they are to be found right where you are, when you turn your attention around to that which is aware and which is Buddha.

*From his book 'Being Dharma', translated by Paul Breiter and published by Shambala 2001

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Master Huineng & 'Buddha Space'

The capacity of Mind is wide and great, it is like emptiness of space. To sit with a mind emptied makes one fall into emptiness of indifference. Space contains the sun, the moon, stars, constellations, great earth, mountains, and rivers. All grasses and plants, good men and bad men, bad things and good things, Heaven and hell-they are all in empty space. The emptiness of [Self-] nature as it is in all people is just like this.

(Master Huineng)

Master Huineng, the much-celebrated sixth patriarch of Zen Buddhism, was a man full of wisdom. Why? Because he was empty. Empty of what? Empty of himself – there really was no Huineng at all! But, this is ridiculous, you might reasonably conclude. Yet, is it? Take a look now, a little peek if you dare, and see who or what it is reading these words now. What do they appear in – a limited and limiting mind, or the spaciousness nothingness of the Mind that is ‘Buddha Space’?

The e-book quoted in this article is available for free download at the following location:

‘Manual of Zen Buddhism’ by D.T. Suzuki