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Dharma Talks


RGJ Faith Forum contributions

This is a repository of various dharma talks from RBC.   We try to post the latest talk here in case you missed them live.  You are always welcome to come to RBC and experience a Sunday Service in person.   Please understand that these are ancient teachings and none of these talks represent original content. Dharma explanations are freely borrowed and shared.

To the right are Buddhist thoughts and contributions to the Reno Gazette Journals Faith Forum Series. The complete series is located here.

Letting go of troubles 3sep17

posted Sep 4, 2017, 9:17 AM by Matthew Fisher

--- Namandabu - namandabu - Namandabu ---


["Let it Go" plays] - That song is so freeing. It makes me want to let go all pretence and shoulds and just be!  


Welcome again  and good morning.  It’s good to be together with the Buddha’s teaching - the Dharma - this morning.  We have some folks absent at the Playa. The Burn is over and the cleanup begins. The past two weeks have been full. Pet blessings, a funeral, and the continued plumbing disaster.  But now we are together. I’m always happy to see you here.  You’ve met Tomo Sensei. [bow] Welcome to all visitors. It is always wonderful to gather with our dear Dharma Friends.
Letting go.. hmmm.  There is a Mark Twain quote about aging …

”Age is an issue of mind over matter.  If you don't mind, it doesn't matter”


Anything we attach to is troubling.   We long for permanence in a changing world. But letting go of attachments is difficult.  Usually attachments and aversions are strangely prized possessions.  Our anger or our pride or a bad experience become the objects that we think we can’t live without. Truly our small self can’t live without them. The ego is made out of these possessions. But really these bind us in a way that we cannot live a joyful life.


The Buddha's teaching is intended to teach habits of letting go. The Eightfold path is a way of living that promotes a letting go habit of mind.


We ask people to submit post-its with what you’d like to let go of?

[Read some]

Letting go of guilt. Past Actions. Or adverse experiences.

Letting go of fear.  Imagined outcomes.

Letting go of who you wish you were.  Expectations.


These are all really great aspirations.   How do we use the Buddha’s Dharma to make letting go possible?  As Mark Twain said, the Dharma works by changing our mind. Following the Buddha’s way changes our habit of mind. The ways we frame our experiences through the lense of views. The Buddha taught that a joyful life is one lived in this precious moment.  The middle between past and future. Get in the habit of letting go of Living in the past or of living in the future, this leaves us squarely in the present.  Dharma practice is habit forming. Habit making - Monthly habit - a daily habit.  A Habit of mind, where releasing attachments with each outward breath becomes second nature.

We do talk about all the ways of letting go pretty often.  

One way is by…casting things off

In your journey of life, it is better to travel with our hands free…do you ever find yourself with too much stuff in your hands?  On projects at the temple, I often an trying to use a tool or something and in my hands are bits and pieces even trash or wrappers from something. Put it down. Toss it out. Really the contents of these post-its - it’s the future, the past, complaints, fears - that burden us like this. Let them go.  Casting out.


Another way is … Giving

Our Buddhist word Dana means - giving, without expecting anything in return.  Giving helps us grow the habit of letting go.

The best way is … Taking refuge

When we humbly recognize that we are barging our way through life. We lead with the “I-Me-My”s and that is the root cause of difficulties. We can let go trying to control everything and take refuge in the Wisdom and Compassion of the Universe.


That is what we are going to talk about this morning. These ideas come from the Buddha. They are Dharma teachings… If you are a Buddhist, or just came to see what our service is like today; each one of us has to learn how to let go.  


We usually don’t say should or have to?   This must be pretty important if I do.   It is.  Because not being able to let go creates our suffering.
Has anyone see the meme on the RBC sign out front…?   Anyone?... Anyone?... Anyone?...

“Change is never painful.  When we Resist it, we suffer”

The burdens we carry with us -  bad memories of the past, and fears of the future are the impediments to a joyful life.  Clinging is resistance to change. They cause suffering.
 
It may be hard to do. We all know it’s a reasonable thing to do.  It makes a lot of sense but we can’t do it…. The Buddha realized this is exactly why we don’t live joyful lives.  And so the Buddha  taught many ways of letting go.


The first way of letting go -   Is casting off.

Let’s do a very simple mindfulness exercise:
Please stand-up [as you are able], and Close your eyes.     [bell]
In your mind, see yourself in a forest.  Walk a little bit in the forest and find the biggest stick you can lift.  In your mind pick up the big stick, feel it.  Say “this is heavy”  Really feel it.  Is it heavy?  You bet it is.  Feel it compressing your spine with its weight.  Feel your arms strain to hold it. Your shoes sink into the soft forest floor. Now draw in a deep breath - and with the our breath  let go. Just let it fall away. It doesn’t feel heavy now?  
It’s only heavy when you hold it, but if you let it go, it has no weight at all.  Relieved and refreshed, walk a little more.

This time reach down and pick up a heavy rock - for some it will be a boulder - it has written on it what you wrote on the post-it.

Say “this is heavy”  Really feel it.  Is it heavy?  You bet it is.  Feel your problem compressing your spine with its weight.  Feel your arms straining to hold it. Your shoes sink into the soft forest floor. Now draw in a deep breath - and with the out breath just let go of the problem. Visualize it fall away.

Every out breath unburdens you more and more and more. [bell]

OK - open your eyes, you can sit back down.

There are lots of heavy things in life?  Jobs, illness, relationship problems, money problems.  Feel how heavy it is.  Remember - It’s only heavy from your holding on to it.  This way of letting go is to breath things out.  We live very complicated lives.  We carry too much of this stuff.  Let them go and travel light on the journey of life. When you feel the heavy weight returning, breath deeply and focus on now and the weight is gone.


We formalize this process -  Buddhists have confession too. We call it the Dharma Gate of Contrition - the Sange-mon.


We are encouraged to confess to someone who is able to receive the confession of something troubling we have done or thought.   We unburden ourselves to a wise person experienced in life and the Dharma.  It can be a priest, but it doesn't have to be.  [We are usually easiest to find.]   The point of confession is to experience remorse or regret for our actions.  It recognizes the trouble we have created for ourselves or others.  It is an opportunity to reflect on the consequences of our actions.  We carry the hope that it helps us to make a better choice in the future.  In practice, confessing results in a sense of relief.  Of Letting go what has been held back.


There is the famous story of the time I short-sheeted Rev. Shelley’s crutches. I was 17 and she had injured her knee and when she leaned on the mal-adjusted crutch she fell and cracked the cast. I felt so bad that the little teasing had gone too far. I confess this to all of you in hopes of letting go that burden. [breath]


Confession does not, and cannot absolve us of responsibility for our actions.  The law of Karma ensures that the consequences of unskillful actions will manifest. When we take Buddhist practice seriously, we try to behave well - skillfully is the best translation from the sutra.  An important part of this is to acknowledge our failures and to learn from them. Confession is indispensable in this process. We enter understanding through the Dharma gate of contrition.


The Sci-Fi writer  Ray Bradbury once said ….
“Learning to let go should be learned before learning to get.
Life should be touched, not strangled. You’ve got to relax, let it happen at times, and at others move forward with it.”


We can do this the simple act of giving - expecting nothing in return. Another way of letting go.   

This is called Dana.  Not ordinary giving, but giving and expecting nothing back in return.   When you sign up for a monthly gift [by paypal or other service] it sustains the temple, not for you, but for others who may come here. When you put a five or a ten in the  Dana boxes conveniently located by the exits, this is a way of practicing “letting go”.   The “I-me-me-my” wants to keep the precious dollars of money, the compassionate heart lets it go. The Buddha recommended giving enough that you notice it, but not so much that it troubles your life.  A middle way method there too.

Dana is not just a matter of giving. It is ridding us of our overwhelming attachment to ourselves and whatever we have. Generosity is being spacious and open hearted.


If you noticed the recent plumbing disaster on Taylor Street. The water line broke.  This is costing the temple a lot to fix. Making a donation so that there is clean water for visitors of the temple is not for you, you get little in return. And is is very good.  


And the best way of letting go is taking refuge in something bigger than you.   We call it having a Nembutsu mind.

Realizing this is all happening whether you are here or not.  A mind where nothing sticks to it. You don’t own this. You are just taking refuge in this life. If you are having a beautiful experience this morning, don’t worry about taking it with you and trying and remember what’s being said - you don’t need to try to remember.  These things will just stick in your mind anyway.  So don’t try and collect things. That openness allows things to stick to you.  We just listen to the Dharma talk and say the Nembutsu in gratitude.  A Nembutsu mind.  Just experience the joy of that moment in that moment. Feel the wisdom and compassion imbued in life.


The Buddha taught that when you have a beautiful moment, enjoy it right now! And move on. You can be free for the next wonderful moment to come and let that go too.  This way all the happiness and the unhappiness of life doesn't stick to you, which means you can always be free for the next moment to experience the infinite compassion and infinite wisdom of the universe.

You just flow through life collecting no mementoes, expecting nothing from the future.  Someone says something rotten to you; it just goes right through you.  The beautiful sunset takes your breath away - goes right through you.

Open to wonder and wisdom in every moment - Namu Amida Butsu!


From beginning to end, the path of Dharma is about letting go.  As we let go of one thing along the way, we find ourselves clinging to the next. As we let go of the big stuff, we find our more subtle attachments to be let go. It is hard to let go of things, harder to let go of ideas, and even harder to let go of a carefully constructed spiritual identity.  That process of letting go is a tender one. We should notice the poignant humor of this very human life. Not a struggle, more a path of acceptance and openness to the natural arising and dissolving of experience.



Tomo sensei and I performed a funeral on Friday. And it brings this into focus. Although letting go is something that happens all along the Buddhist path, it really comes to the surface in relation to death. When dealing with death we are bluntly confronted with the futility of not letting go. We like to hold  the idea of our own mortality, safely distance. Its abstract, but suddenly gets very personal in the face of  death, exposing powerful emotional undercurrents and deep attachments. At this point, telling a son who just lost his mother to simply "let go" is not very skillful or effective.  We usually say “she’s going to be ok”.   This takes the focus of the individual's experience and opens the way to moving onward without the dear one.


Death has a way of bringing us back to what is most essential. In

the presence of death, the extraneous concerns and preoccupations fall away quite simply and naturally. It comes down to the basic issue. The self is changeful, the body is changeful.  Embrace and accept or suffer.


When we ourselves come to death, we can be present with experience, whatever it is, as it rises and falls. People go away, accept that. Being present is the best way of letting go, and as we let go we become more present. It may even be possible, to die with pleasant curiosity and to breathe our last breath without expectation or regret.


I think you understand what letting go is and if you can do it from time to time in your life,  you will find that you can overcome most of the problems in life.  There are times when you work hard, when you carry a heavy load.  We all have duties and jobs.  There also has to be the time when you just put things down - let go.  The problem is our culture is best at doing things.  We’re very good at that.  But what we don’t know is how to put things down, let go and rest.  So that’s how to let go.  That’s how to let the wisdom and compassion of life flow into you.  As Woody Allen said “Life is full of misery, loneliness and suffering --- and it's all over much too soon.”


One last letting go together.  We will share a gift with all sentient beings. [Repeat after me…]


May all beings be happy;

                     May all beings be free from harm:

                          May all beings receive boundless compassion;

                               And may peace and harmony fill their hearts


--- Namandabs - namandabs - Namandabs ---

Deep Hearing and True Entrusting 25jun17

posted Jun 28, 2017, 5:43 PM by Matthew Fisher

Welcome again to you all.  As we look around we see some new faces and some old friends - we welcome everyone at RBC.   That is a very intentional statement.  750 years ago Shin was one of the few paths in Buddhism that said that and really welcomed everyone. We can be proud of that heritage and uphold it.  The Great Compassion of Amida Buddha many Kalpas ago focused on this spirit. Compassionately sharing the Dharma with everyone and anyone is what we do here.  No requirements, no hurdles, just come in and share in the kindness of Amida Buddha.


Story

I grew up  spending a lot of time with my brother. He is 12 yrs older than me, maybe more of an uncle in many ways. When I was a boy he would take me places on the back of his motorbike.  He taught me to free dive in the cool clear waters North of San Francisco.   I was only 12 years old, so the Pacific Ocean was quite daunting.  We had a routine of getting to the beach, gearing up. Slipping into the icy water [it was always cold - sometimes very cold] and then kicking-out to deeper water where the abalone and fish lived.  It was frightening for me, but also wonderful.  The wetsuit he bought me helped. Sometimes it all went well. Sometimes things happened, the surf rose, there water darkened and it took all my will not to run away.  I remember telling myself “it is going to be ok”, many times.  Most of all, I remember all the sights and sounds of the sea. The experiences of all those moments.


Buddhism is about simply experiencing moments - but it can seem difficult to understand.  Sometimes the mystery side is overemphasized in books and documentaries. Some scholars work hard to complicate and systematize what is really not that complicated.  Today I want to talk about two important windows into the Buddha's view of life. Just two that are essential to the Buddhist path.   These are Monpo and Shinjin.   Monpo is translated variously as - Mindfulness - insight - Deep Hearing of the light. Shinjin is translated as true entrusting - faith - Saddha .  Buddhist faith shades more toward confidence, than blind acceptance. These two ideas of insight and faith help us see The Path to a Joyful life that Amida Buddha manifested.  


MONPO - Deep Hearing happens in the present moment.

Now a days - We seem to feel obliged to to be doing a million things at once. But think about it - No dear wise grandmother ever counseled us to worry more about everything that hasn't happened yet.  Regrets about the past and worries of the future take us out of the present. There is a common meme, “Worrying is using your imagination to create something you don't want”.  These words accurately capture much of our experience.


We can simply stay focused on what’s happening right now, we don’t have to be consumed with tomorrow just yet. The monkey chatter of our mind can quiet. We don’t have to try to manipulate the future. What the Buddha taught was, simply observe the current situation, and engage in a way that is the best for the wellbeing of all.

Staying in the present moment is very freeing. It give us space to be who we really are. If you’re walking, just walk. Don’t get caught up in what to say when we get there, or what to do tomorrow.This is how the Buddha lived life. Simply walk. Feel the sensation of the feet. Appreciate the texture of the breeze. Observe what nature offers all around. With open eyes, see the dappled sunlight in the branches. It will be the best walk you’ve ever had.  When we truly are mindful of this present moment, we experience Monpo - deep hearing of the light.

SHINJIN - How can we do this?   First off - don’t analyze the situation.  This is a bit of Right thought from our Eightfold path. Don’t indulge in these analyse-y thoughts.   To quote Owen Wilson “Have some faith, man”  -  Shinjin.  


When we were diving we would kick-out to a kelp bed off of the rocky coast and hunt for abalone.   At times I would lose track of my brother.   I felt lost - disoriented.  I started thinking about all the possibilities. Did he go back to the beach w/o me?  Did he go further out?   Will I find him?  Will he be angry with me? Should I go back?  Will I be able to get back to the beach?  Then I saw his head pop-up out of the ocean just 20 feet from me.

What happens in this experience? My imagination got caught up in a result that hadn’t even happened yet - lostness.  I had briefly lost track of my brother, there was no reason to be upset or worried about what might happen. At that present moment, I was simply swimming along in the kelp.  Once I began to analyze the situation, I was creating imaginary outcomes and fear arose.  

What if I could simply float there? How would I feel when I saw my brother again?  Calm and centered and able to respond to actual reality at hand.  What if I didn't see my brother any time soon?  It would be better to be Calm and Centered and able to respond to actual reality at hand.   The Buddha’s advice here is to have deep and abiding faith in experience. We can wait and find out what will happen just around the corner -  instead of predicting and experiencing the horror of being lost - in advance?  This takes faith in the Dharma, faith in the Buddha, and faith in the Sangha.  The Shinjin in Amida Buddha I wanted to share with you today.

MONPO   - There is more out there than just us.  We finish with the Eko each time we chant, “Ga Ni Shi Ku Do Ku…”  This chant is a dedication - it freely gives away any and all positive energy created by the practice - to all sentient beings - toward their birth in the Buddha Field of Amida Buddha - the pure land - where enlightenment is simple and natural and easy. Opening to the wisdom and compassion of the universe motivates our right effort so much more than just wanting a specific result. With Shinjin -  Deep hearing of the light we can really know that there are things that are outside of the small “S” self that that help us find our way.  This is Other Power awareness is felt through Monpo - deep hearing, it is an essential awareness of a joyful life.

Trusting in something bigger is Right Understanding - a clear view.
I am sorry to have to break this to you -

You are not the be all and end all of everything.

I know spoiler alert!    You are one point in a wonderful interdependent web of existence - the inter-being of all that is-was-and-will be.  That is why we say - our true nature is “Eternal, Joyful, Selfless and Pure”.  Not because one is special - but because we are part of everything that is, and that is so very joyful.  


MONPO - Our RBC member George Killoran always says the Deeply Hearing the presence of Amida Buddha in everything - “Seeing this big picture view” - Appreciate this present moment, it is worth more than the simple experience of having it.  It is a nexus of being and time that transcends all views and thoughts.  We need not worry.  Amida Buddha holds us as if we each were his only child - we are held never to be let go.

The Buddha way finds beauty in every moment - even bad ones. If we pause and consider this, it may be difficult. In a pleasant event we can see beauty - sure. With some small effort, we can even see beauty in a neutral event. But how can we can find beauty in every moment?  Even the difficult challenging - unjust - horrible moments?


Sometimes people are uncomfortable with saying the Nembutsu all the time - They take issue with mindfulness all the time. They ask, “Why would anyone want to stay present in a painful moment?”  Isn't it better to escape? - We pull away from things that hurt -  But mindfulness isn’t about chasing after positive experience.  Life comes in all flavors.  The Nembutsu is about experiencing the present moment in all of its glory.  Because we learn from everything that happens. We expand our consciousness when we actually experience life - good and bad. Pleasant and Painful.

There is beauty in stubbing your toe, if you’re willing to open to it. There is beauty in realizing that you don’t like a particular thing or a certain person. When you stay with the moment - not in analysing and evaluating - you can start to see with new eyes. The Buddha’s eyes. Choose to see beauty. Choose to see possibility. Choose to learn. Choose to open your heart to life.  That is what the Buddha way offers.

This is possible when we stop labeling everything.  You don’t have to decide what something means in this moment. You don’t have to judge and say whether something is good or bad. You don’t have to say whether you’re enjoying something or not. You can just allow life to unfold. You can observe. You can watch. You can exist. You can breathe. But you don’t have to label. You can let something be ambiguous. And you can feel comfortable in the ambiguity.  This is Monpo.

Shinjin -  Shinjin is surrender to what is.  To being itself.

Interesting thing about surrender is that people think it looks like giving up and caving in, but in reality surrender is opening arms [gesture] to receive life.  To receive this present moment.  Not what I want it to be, but what it is.

One of my favorite ways to align myself with the present moment is to chant. When we're chanting we're completely tuned in - we're focused on one sound at a time. We are in flow - one sound leading to another and on and on. So if you're looking for a way to help you shift focus to the present moment, and silent mindfulness practice is difficult for you, come to chanting on Tuesdays at 6pm. It will help you practice mindfulness consistently and help you pay attention to the world around you in a beautiful way.

 

Focus on one task, one activity, one thought at a time.  Our culture has an obsession with being busy - counting accomplishments and shiny gold stars. We compete with each other about who is doing more, who is doing better, who has more friends on facebook and contacts on linkedIn. Who is more popular…and we sometimes value ourselves based on these ridiculous comparisons.

But we don’t have to.

We can focus. We can be present. We can do one thing at a time and trust that it will all be okay - everything else will not fall apart without our very divided attention.  We can drop out of the competition thing and tune in to our truth. This reality as it is.  We can live in a way that works. We can still love being laser focused and feel good about what we are doing. But, we don’t have to be number one in anything. We don’t have to beat everyone else. We don’t have to impress anyone. We can be with this present moment. We can truly experience the running water in the shower, without thinking about what we’ll wear when we get out.  One thing at a time. One breath at a time. One moment building on the next.

A wonderful part of this Shinjin - true entrusting - and Monpo - deep hearing-  is we can really Embrace being surprised.  The Buddha went into each situation, each experience without preconceived notions. Without pre-judging.  When we think we know everything about how something will turn out, we cloud our experience with an artificial pre-made attitude. But if we simply let the flow of life unfold around us, observing the world around us with wonder and interest, we can take a break from trying to figure it all out.

If you’re going to start a new school, or live in a new country,  start a new job, or try a new restaurant - just try not to expect anything. Invite curiosity to be your companion for the day. This begins with the Right Thought, “I wonder how this will turn out.”  Even when you’re going to do something you’ve done many times before - open to surprises - each day your experience can change. The previously difficult department meeting might not always be horrible. The tense family dinner might be really fun this time. With this mindset - can pay attention to good aspects of the evening simply because we are open to it all - the good, the bad, and the in-between.  This is the openness of Monpo - deeply hearing everything in this moment.  And the True Entrusting that things will be ok. We bring excitement and joy back to each day, inviting surprises and unexpected emotions into our lives as welcome guests and keen insights into life.


Conclusion - So these are two windows into the Buddha dharma.   Mindfulness = Monpo,  Faith = Shinjin.   Let us listen and feel content with hearing the teaching. And then try to live the teaching in our life. We can develop a settled faith - open and clear and adaptive - but confident.  We can cultivate Mindfulness of Other-Power in our lives. We are grateful for the Wisdom and Compassion of the universe that is Amida Buddha.

    As I floated in that kelp bed, I didn’t panic, but it was approaching. I just floated long enough to find my brother. I can see now that enjoying that moment of lostness - really injecting joy into it - was possible and I can see my little frozen smiling face - rolling with each swell.  Simply observing the wonder  and spectacle of the current situation, and deeply engaged in this present moment.

    Above all this friendly universe wants us to be joyful.   Lets all say that deep wish of the universe has towards us - together...

May you be happy;

                 May you be free from harm:

          May you receive boundless compassion;

                 And may peace and harmony fill your heart

             --- Namandabs - Namandabs - Namandabs ---

                                            


Reading - 25jun17


       From the Upajat-tana Sutra….

Thus I have heard, when the Tatagatha was dwelling in the Jeta Grove.  Gathered were 200 brothers and 100 sisters and all manner of lay practicers.


What should be considered often?  What should be the objects of one’s contemplation?  We should be mindful of these five facts.

  • I am subject to aging, I have not gone beyond aging

  • I am subject to illness,I have not gone beyond illness.

  • I am subject to death, I have not gone beyond death.

  • I am subject to loss, I will lose all that is dear to me.

  • I am the owner of my actions, heir to my actions, born of my actions. Whatever I do, for good or for evil, I am heir to that.


These are the five facts that one should reflect on often, whether one is a woman or a man, lay or ordained.


Now, one should often reflect…There are beings intoxicated with youth. Because of this, they conduct themselves in a bad way in body, speech, and  mind. But when they often reflect on that fact, youth's intoxication with youth will grow weaker…

There are beings who are intoxicated with their health. They conduct themselves in a reckless way in body, speech, and mind. But with mindfulness of that intoxication it will grow weaker...

There are beings who are intoxicated with a living person's intoxication with life. They conduct themselves immoderately in body, speech and mind. But with mindfulness of that intoxication it will grow weaker...

There are beings who are intoxicated with all things they hold dear. They conduct themselves with greed in body, speech and mind. But with mindfulness of that intoxication it will grow weaker...

One should be mindful of actions, heir to actions, seeing birth by actions. Whatever I do, for good or for evil, I am heir to that.

The Buddha concludes the sutra with this gatta…

Knowing this Dharma
I overcame all intoxication with health, youth, & life
As one who sees letting go as rest.
Great energy arose,
The Unbinding was clearly seen.
I could no longer partake of ordinary pleasures.
Having followed the holy life,
I will not return.

[Long Pause]

We will now have a few minutes of meditation accompanied by music.

[Bow at Altar]


Living in Mindfulness - The Eight Fold Path pt2 7jun17

posted Jun 12, 2017, 9:45 AM by Matthew Fisher

Spoken by Rev. Matthew Fisher

Good morning again - you are welcome in this Buddhist Temple….

We are here for New folks who are seeking a world view that resonates with them.   Something that feels like home.   And we are here for the long term members, the good work of caring for the temple engages you in the Dharma everyday. We are sustained by our study of the teachings and by the simple “chopping of wood and fetching of water” that is Buddhist life.

 

As we discussed last time - The Noble Eightfold Path is the basic framework for all the Buddha’s teachings. In the sutra we read last time, it was actually the first topic he mentioned in his first Dharma Talk, and the last thing he mentioned in his last talk.  In the first he taught the eightfold path was the true way to awakening, that it avoided the dead-ends of the two extreme views - selfish indulgence and self torment - this middle way.

 

Just before the Buddha died, Subhadda the wanderer asked him...

“Is it only in the Buddha’s teachings that there are awakened people or do other teachings have awakened people as well?”

At first the Buddha put the question aside to teach the Dharma.  But then after teaching he went on to say that only in teachings where the eight aspects of this noble path are taught will you find awakened people. And really, only in the Buddha’s teaching are all eight aspects taught. So when he put that question aside, it was simply a matter of being polite. He went on to answer the question, saying that this path is The Way: not simply an effective path. The effective path. Each aspect folded into each other in a supportive net.

 

What is the Eightfold path the Buddha taught?  

right understanding and right thought; right speech, right action, and right livelihood; right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.

 

The first two are right understanding and right thought; these come under the heading of discernment - clarity of mind. Then there’s right speech, right action, and right livelihood; these come under the heading of virtue or - good behavior.  And then right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration; these come under a heading of mental focus. It’s important to remember that each of these aspects is a part of a path. A trail leading to abiding joy.  This path goes someplace good. Its purpose is strategic - directed - effective.

 

Last time we talked about the first three folds of the path - Understanding, Thought, and Speech - Right Understanding includes knowing what karma is - the principle of action - that our actions come from our choices, and they do make a difference: that by acting on skillful intentions, we meet with pleasant results; by acting from unskillful intentions, we meet with unpleasant results.  Things are never totally predetermined by the past. If we really want to put an effort toward a joyful life, we have to accept the principle that our efforts, our actions, really do have consequences.

 

With Right Thought, the important point is that we chose what we think. We develop skillful habits to help direct our thoughts. That’s what the next level of right thought is about: thinking of things in terms of the four noble truths - Our lack of Joy is to be comprehended, its cause abandoned, its cessation can be realized, and the path to its cessation developed.  All these begin with clear thought.

 

This means that all the aspects of the eightfold path are skills or habits we develop.  In right thought. We realize that unskillful actions are going to cause trouble, so we resolve not to get tied up in thoughts of sensuality, ill will, or harmfulness, because we know these thoughts, if we foster them, are going to take us down the path to suffering.

 

Sometimes people get stuck on the RIGHT - in all these parts of the path. We don't mean right and wrong “right” - we mean Juuust Right -  Like Goldilocks’ choice of porridge or a beautiful note played on a violin, just so!  Whenever I say “Right” in this context please hear it as “Juuust right’.

 

We started looking at the virtue group - the good behavior part of the path last time. By considering Right Speech.  Actual actions of body, speech, and mind.  This is where right speech, right action, and right livelihood come in. We should ask, How do our words, our actions, and our livelihood actually effect other people? Do they cause harm to our self? The Buddha way uses this reflection as a way of developing honesty. In all of this the prime virtue is truthfulness. If we can’t admit to our self that the things we say or do are causing harm, or the way we gain your livelihood is causing harm, there are huge blind spots in our mind.  Seeing clearly through mindfulness is what is needed.

 

Juuuust right action includes everything we do. We act without harm to others and we act with clarity and consideration. Juuust Right Action.   We get in the habit of wholesome physical acts when we are mindful of our actions.   What actions does this include?  All bodily actions. Anything we do, can have a juuust right quality.   Anything we do can bring us closer to the Dharma.

The first practice in Buddhism is Dana - giving. When the first Buddhist, Sujata - the village girl - gave food to the weak and struggling Siddhartha - this was Dana.  Not ordinary giving, but giving expecting nothing back in return.  Our temple here, was built long ago, many people donated, many small sums and big sums, giving expecting nothing back in return.  That’s Dana.  Giving comes in many forms.  As simple as wearing your name tag so new folks can learn your name at the temple, or a complex as giving your service on the Sangha council which supports our priests.  

 

Just try going into any situation giving, expecting nothing at all - see what happens - there is a great spiritual fulfillment.  Even when we do a Buddhist practice.  We accept our limitations and just give our best effort.

S. Suzuki sensei said -
“we practice without any gaining idea.”

 

As strange as it sounds, this not expecting takes mindfulness. It takes some measure of noticing when we are expecting and relaxing into the universe and NOT EXPECTING, letting go of any outcome.

 

Another aspect of Juuuust right action is clarity. Some moments do call for decisive action. And in that moment, we do the best we can. But when your action is complete, when the conversation is done, the meeting is over, the interview finished, you walked the dog… when the action is over, let it be done.  This is clarity.  And the fold of juuust right thought comes in - not analysing or worrying about it after the fact.

 

Our livelihood is in this good behavior group. Juust Right Livelihood.

We avoid professions and jobs that defile or harm any sentient being.   Juuust right livelihood is important because we spend so much time at work.  The Buddha wanted to ensure that all our actions are building a kind and compassionate life.   The Buddha explicitly said there are five occupations that we should avoid…

“a lay follower should not engage in five types of business which five? -  trade in weapons,  trade in human beings,  trade in meat,  trade in intoxicants, and  trade in poison. These are the five types of business that a lay follower should not engage in”
                                                                            - Vanijja Sutta

Most of these seem obvious, but there is ambiguity in some of these. Trade in poisons shows us how context is important - Botulism is a poison but Botox is a Medicine - the dosage is the difference.  An obvious omission are soldiers.  The Buddha’s family were mostly soldiers of one type or another, he himself was well trained in martial arts.   A profession that occasionally uses force to defend the weak is a right livelihood.
If a job intends to directly or indirectly cause suffering to other beings we should try to avoid it.  When it comes to practicing right livelihood it is not just our actual occupation that is important, but how we conduct ourselves at work - if our job requires violate the five basic precepts it is not wholesome.

Shinran Shonin opened Buddhism to Farmers and Ranchers and Fisherfolk recognizing that their intentions were wholesome and essential to our society.   Vietnamese Zen priest Thich Nhat Hanh says,



"To practice Right Livelihood (samyag ajiva), you find a way to earn your living without compromising the ideals of love and compassion. The way you support yourself can be an expression of your deepest self, or it can be a source of suffering for you and others.

Most of all.  If your job ethically eats you up, it can't be a right livelihood. Our work can nourish our understanding and compassion, or it can erode them. The Buddha recommended we open our eyes to the consequences, near and far, of the way we earn our living.  This is eyes open honesty.

 

Each aspect of the eightfold path encourages this quality of honesty. We reinforce and cultivate honesty with ourselves. If we want to follow the path, if we want to reach the end of suffering, we have to look very honestly at how we’re living our life, and make changes in the actions where we’re causing trouble.  That is what Shinran Shonin did.  He looked deeply into his life and saw how after all he had learned, he still had the petty jealousy and dreams of fame, we all do...

“Although my eyes, blinded by passions, do not see the brilliant light which embraces me, the Great Compassion never tires, always casting its light upon me.” - Shinran Shonin

Sometimes seeing is enough. He clearly saw his blindness. And he clearly saw the wonderful gifts of Amida Buddha - this is the deep hearing of the light, we talk about.  Nen-butsu - mindfulness of the Buddha in every moment.

 

All eight folds working together make it easier to take refuge in Amida Buddha - the Nembutsu.  Bringing the Buddha to mind. Notice that effort, mindfulness, and concentration all come under the last grouping of path elements, Mental Focus. The Buddha never talked about mindfulness as one kind of practice and concentration as something else. As with all the aspects of the eightfold path, we distinguished between them, but also see how they blend into each other. Just as discernment shades into virtue, and virtue shades into mental focus, right mindfulness and right concentration shade into each other.

 

The Buddha described the relationship between them, the four establishments of mindfulness are what we concentrate on. In mindfulness we put aside greed and distress of the world. We are ardent, alert, and mindful, focused on the body in and of itself, or feelings or mental qualities in and of themselves, focused on the Dharma in and of itself. That’s the practice of right mindfulness. Included within this habit is right effort, the quality of ardency. We make efforts to focus our intention, and persist in preventing unwholesome qualities from arising and focus on abandoning less skillful qualities that arise.  That’s how right effort gets folded into right mindfulness.

 

Right mindfulness folds into right concentration when the mind is able to stay with this present moment - until it settles down - abandoning all unskillful mental qualities - we concentrate.  If we are mindful enough to abandon our obsession with our thoughts, the mind can let go and settle into strong states of concentration.  Where we really do stay focused just on the object of of our mindfulness, This Present Moment or Great Compassion become real.

 

Those are the aspects of the path, the framework for what we’re doing here. When we look at our life and look at the mind, we can start to see. Are we actually on the path?  Or are we letting things wander off into the weeds?   What qualities need to be developed?  What qualities need to be abandoned?

This is part of what the Buddha calls the habits of the noble ones: that we learn how to delight in abandoning whatever we have to abandon, and to delight in developing whatever needs be developed. The path involves a fair amount of letting go. Right Thought involves letting go of unskillful thoughts. Right speech, right action, right livelihood, and right effort all involve letting go unskillful activities, and states of mind . Right mindfulness involves letting go of greed and stress about the world. The things we need to develop tend to be Right Understanding and Right Concentration, We are easily confused and easily distracted - the Shiny Object passes our view and poof!  What was I doing?  We also develop some skillful habits, those that help us see where we’re causing stress and suffering, so we can stop causing them.

 

The Buddha once said, of the folds of the path, right concentration is the main one, and the others are accessories. Right Concentration is the one we work at the most, to get the mind to stay with one object patiently and presently.  We learn how to do this through the Nembutsu - bringing the Buddha to mind - but also we cultivate the sense of value that reminds us of why this really is important. The Dharma is important to our lives. Without this skill, we miss everything else. Sometimes we feel like we know about all the folds of the path, “Yea I read all about that 8 fold stuff” we might think. You can read all about the path, but miss the whole point. “right understanding and right thought; right speech, right action, and right livelihood; right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. OK got it!”

No! we need to live it.

 

So it’s not just a matter of knowing about the folds of the path. We need to make this a priority, master them as skills and create lasting habits of mind. As we consider these and foster these aspects - they do their work on our mind. The mind becomes more sensitive, more alert to what it’s doing, more open to the possibility that the suffering you’re experiencing in life is not something to blame on other people, or on conditions beyond your control. The essential suffering that’s weighing us down is something that we are been creating through our own actions.  We can learn how to stop. That’s means letting go . We realize that there’s something we’ve been doing over and over again and we don’t have to do it. So we stop and things are better.

 

We use the teachings for their intended purpose. That way we get the most out of them and we fulfill the Buddha’s original intentions for teaching them. There’s a passage in the Mahaparinibbana Sutra - toward the end of his life - where the 9 devas are worshiping him with flowers, incense, and songs, and the Buddha explained to the sangha that this is not the best way to pay respect to the Buddha. We pay respect to the Buddha by practicing the Dharma in line with the Dharma.  We can re-habit the way we look at sights, sounds, tactile sensations, and ideas with the purpose of giving rise to breaking the illusion.  The illusion of our separateness. The illusion of our selfhood. We look for their inconsistencies. We look for the stress that’s involved in trying to find happiness in selfish pursuits. And we learn to see them as part of everything - emptiness of a separate self. That, he said, is how you pay true respect to the Buddha.

 

This is what the eightfold path does. What insight into the four noble truths brings us.   We can begin to see the way that we normally take the world and turn it into suffering: That’s the problem the Buddha saw clearly. We use the eightfold path as a window see how we make joyful experience into suffering. We can break these habits of mind. All the folds of the path help strengthen our right concentration. To the point where the mind is steady enough and still enough and sensitive enough to see what’s happening.  And these habits of mind make it possible for us to see clearly how the universe works. It’s Great Compassion and Great wisdom nurturing and caring for everything that is.

 

We can put great effort into following this path.   The Buddhas have made it as easy as it can be.  This seems like a big deal - a monumental task - we might ask, “How much effort is enough? How little do I have to put into it to see a result?”  We will look at this question in more detail in a few weeks.   But for now the answer to “How much effort is enough?” is a little more than you have so far. We make a habit of coming to the temple. We make a point of helping others. We make a habit of considering our actions.

 

Think about it - why did the Buddha put so much effort, for many kalpas into his quest for awakening, not to be voted most popular and serenaded by devas - He wanted to put an end to suffering. For the sake of all sentient beings, he wanted to share his insights with others in a way that they actually feel inspired to follow the path.

In juust right measure we follow this path - right understanding and right thought; right speech, right action, and right livelihood; right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.

We follow the path and we feel positive   results. We do this for the sake of all beings. Not for ourselves.  This is the motivation of all the Buddhas. Filled with compassion. Filled with wisdom. They see what is truly important and share it with all sentient beings.   Let us join in the Buddha's wish for all... [say after me]

May you be happy;

                May you be free from harm:

                          May you receive boundless compassion;

                               And may peace and harmony fill your heart


- Namu Amida Butsu  Namu Amida Butsu  Namu Amida Butsu -


Living in Mindfulness - The Eight Fold Path pt1 28may17

posted Jun 12, 2017, 9:43 AM by Matthew Fisher

spoken by Rev. Matthew Fisher

 

Good morning and welcome to Reno Buddhist center….


The wonderful life of the temple is sustained by your participation and support. This place is here because generous people like yourselves contribute in so many ways. Because of that generosity we can welcome newcomers and old friends. Because of that generosity, we can be of service when people come to the doors of the temple. Sometimes visitors are troubled and need a kind listening ear, sometimes visitors are new in town and looking for a Buddhist temple to call home. Thank you all so much for making it possible for us to receive them all.

 

If you are new to us - Welcome - please feel free to participate and ask questions. That is why we are here.  To share the teachings of the Buddha. There have been many Buddhas. The Buddha of our historical age is Sakyamuni Buddha, who lived and taught 2600 years ago.  Today we are considering the Buddha’s first Dharma talk given at the deer park in Isipatana -“Dharma Chakra Pravar tana Sutra”. Setting the Wheel of Dharma in Motion” sutra.

 

In the sutra the Buddha identified four amazing truths about the life of sentient beings. He wasn't the first to  discover these, but we know from him that these truths have been operative in our Universe from many kalpas into the past.   When Sakyamuni Buddha reached  enlightenment under the bodhi tree he saw clearly these Truths…

  1. Life is often difficult and stress filled - but it can be joyful.

  2. How we handle the energies that arise in response to stress is the cause of joy or  - most of the time - sorrow and suffering.

  3. When we are mindful and respond to the world in a realistic way - the stress melts away - and Joy flows in.

  4. To do this, we get in the habit of living as the Buddha recommended.  Following the Eightfold path.

 

The Fourth Noble Truths end with the Eightfold path.  Theses Eight habits of the BUDDHIST LIFE are…Right Understanding     Right Thought    Right Speech   Right Action   Right Livelihood     Right Effort       Right Mindfulness    Right Concentration

 

Lets pause here for a moment... Many of you have heard dharma talks about the Eightfold path before. And some of those experiences may not have been satisfying.  All the different Right this and Right that sounds awfully close to a bunch of “Shoulds”.   You might have the feeling - “oh boy, here we go again with the impossible Eightfold Path”.  Or “I tried it last time and it was hard - I didn’t do it”.

 

This brings me to recognize that sometimes our Dharma Practice is Stressful.  That sounds strange at first though, because isn't the Dharma what rescues us from the stress and strain of life?  
But it does happen and it makes sense. Until we are enlightened we actually are in the habit of making everything into stress.  Go to Disneyland and  what happens stress-out about getting a FastPass for the SpaceMountain ride. Go to lake Tahoe and worry about a sunburn.
Get a new car and worry over the first scratch?   We do this.  It would be funny if it wasn't so painful.

This is what the sutra is about - The Buddha’s basic insight was that we do this. We make life which is inherently wonderful, joyful, and fulfilling, into a source of stress.   Really the stress comes from the problem that we fundamentally do not understanding what our life is. What the life of a sentient being really is.  We think we are self contained, but we are not.  We think we are unchanging, but we are not. We think there is an us and a them, but there is not.

 

When we are confused like this, we experience stress and strain from everything we do.  It is like this with challenges that come up along Eightfold Path.  The Buddha’s word for the often unsatisfying nature of life as “Dukkha.” His First Noble Truth describes life in the world of phenomena is Dukkha.  Dukkha can be translated as stressful, unsatisfactory, disappointing, disillusioning...suffering.  To compound the difficulty of our experience we tend to cling to our misunderstanding of our self.  Our craving and wanting becomes clinging, the un-satisfaction becomes our focus and we get preoccupied with finding satisfaction - where satisfaction cannot be found. All of our culture has been built around satisfying our want.  This is the difficult place we find ourselves.  Wanting things to be other than they are.

 

Sometimes that is the reason people come to the temple for the first time. Maybe a response to some unsatisfactory part of life. Maybe a difficult event like a death or other loss. Sometimes a subtle feeling that life might be more pleasant on The Path.  We start to learn and develop an understanding - really the beginning of Right View.  As soon as we set out though, the mind returns to its old wanting tricks.  We have to be diligent. Learning about the Dharma really shouldn’t create more stress in your life.   But truth be told, it usually does - for a time. We somehow can maneuver every event in our life into a stressor - given the chance.  Stress happens whenever we don't want something to happen but it does. And whenever something we don't want what does happen - again this stress arises. If we have aversion or attraction Dhukka arises. When I get an ice cream - I am briefly joyful, then the melting starts...and I don't want it to melt and I get a little shot of dhukka.  Every experience includes this process.

 

In the same way stress arises in our Dharma practice, we can always trace it back to wanting the practice to be different than it is.  For example - If I come to chanting for the first time and the sounds are difficult or the chant too complicated - I feel a little stress. Often we generate harsh judgements of ourself  “you can't do it - you’re not good enough”. We hear that - the voice of Mara - in our head. And this is exactly what the Buddha was talking about in the sutra.  Being a Buddhist does not mean these thoughts stop happening, it means we begin to see openly and with mindfulness that this is going on.   We cultivate the ability to see the nature of our own mind.

 

When this happens, the teachings of the Buddha provide a sense of direction and clarity. They offer a path to understanding an unsatisfying experience and a clue to living in sustained joy. When we pursue The Dharma it’s not a way to change our experience of the phenomenal world - really it's a way of acceptance. Accepting the reality of life as life occurs - without big reactive swings. Mindfulness is holding in mind the true nature of experience in this world of phenomenon. The Buddha described life as having three defining characteristics:

Anicca – Impermanence
Dukkha – Stress, dissatisfaction, disappointment, dis-illusion
Anatta – non-self  - there is no permanent self experiencing anicca and dukkha.


The Dharma helps us see that we artificially personalize life’s experience. When something pleasant or unpleasant happens - we say it happened “to me” and we feel it should be different than what happened. This leads to more and more monkey mind chatter and generates the unfounded stories the buddha called - delusional mind states that we bonbunin experience most of the time. The practice of awakening through mindfulness of The Four Noble Truths is a practice of deeper and deeper insight into the true nature of self. Only by experiencing this world with an open mind - a mind of equanimity - a non-reacting mind - is the Buddha’s awakening is realized. Following the Eightfold Path helps us get in the habit of open mindedness.  Dharma practice can be stressful - but the intention of living a life mindful of the Buddha is to accept the impermanence of everything and live in gratitude. The best path forward - what the Buddha taught - is to abide in mindfulness. How do we get in the habit of doing that? We follow the Eightfold Path...

 

I listed the limbs of the path before -

Right Understanding     Right Thought         Right Speech       Right Action

Right Livelihood      Right Effort       Right Mindfulness    Right Concentration

 

We can look at the first three limbs of the path today -

The first of the eight is ‘right understanding’.  Anything you do is more effective if you start with a clear view.   That is why we start with Right Understanding. It is the foundation. In Right Understanding we see clearly the four noble truths...

  1. Life can be stressful.

  2. Stress comes from how we see things.

  3. Stress is gone when see the world as it truly is.

  4. This habit of living a Joyful Life has Eight aspects.

 

Right Understanding is an understanding of karma, and knowing that all our actions of Body, Speech, and Mind have results. This is an immutable law of nature.  Some actions bring us to the Dharma, some actions lead away.

Right Understanding is also understanding non-self - how we are not self-existent objects, but rather we are really events in the flow of everything.   We are interdependently co-arising with the entire universe.

We trust in the Wisdom and Compassion of the Universe. And we see our place as one tiny piece in a vastness beyond comprehension. The Nenbutsu - here - is right understanding. Mindfulness of the Buddha.  Recognizing that I am taking refuge in the Buddha all the time.  I take refuge in the wisdom and compassion of the universe.

 

Right Understanding is having these wise beliefs.  Beliefs that reduce suffering, and avoid increasing stresses in life.  These beliefs  are the foundations of our understanding of the Dharma.  A clear view. You have to develop Right Understanding and then you can build a World-View on it:  The Four Noble Truths, The law of Karma, the Non-Self nature of all things, and the Enlightenment of the Buddha are the logical premises of Buddhist life.  They make sense, but do require deep and abiding faith.  Confident Faith that builds as we learn more and experience the Buddha's way.

 

How do we get to this Right Understanding?   Through experience, and mindfulness, and some study of the Dharma.  Reading and participation at the temple’s classes and seminars from time to time builds Right Understanding.  Most of all asking questions fosters Right Understanding.

 

The second habit we cultivate on The Path is right thought - thoughts have a pattern of letting go. This is thinking in a more self-less rather than self-ish way.   Most of the time we are motivated by one kind of personal greed or another - that wanting we talked about earlier. Wanting things to be other than they are.  When we foster thoughts of letting go we are - in fact - letting go of our selfishness -  practicing more self-less behavior helps us toward a true view of life.  By curbing our thoughts that come from the thirsts for more stuff - we are making a habit of selfing - less.   If we put $5-10 dollar in the donation box at the temple - instead of that Super-Atomic-Double-Unicorn-Frappuccino, we are positively affected by that generosity. We are making the self less alone.

 

With these thoughts - we can realize that everyone is in the same boat as us, they want happiness and avoid pain - we can live in a way that helps us all get there.  Instead of trying to secure happiness of just one being, this precious separate self of mine, we can think about a greater good.  The Buddha taught that we are all interconnected, so discarding selfish pursuits and working toward everyone’s happiness is in line with reality.   At first we don’t realize or appreciate what this kind of thinking means -  living a life more focused toward peace and letting go, mostly means giving up our greed, our anger, our jealousy, and other harmful thoughts and emotions.  

 

Happiness comes through finding that true light within and without. Our true nature is Eternal, Joyous, Selfless, and Pure.    Having this Right Thought of letting go means we slowly loosen the grasp of our craving and attachment to external things. We can start to find the peace and happiness that lies within -- the great Ocean of mind -- we can hear the light that is all around us.

 

Cultivating Right Thoughts of goodwill and Non-harm is quite easy.  When  unwholesome thoughts arise we can simply let them go. They are only thoughts. Actions are much more difficult to undo. Thoughts of anger affect us all at times. As an anidote for anger or ill will, the Buddha prescribed the meditation on loving kindness. [As we end every service.] If you are feeling really angry with someone say in your mind ….

May you be happy;

 May you be free from harm:

          May you receive boundless compassion;

                      And may peace and harmony fill your heart

This helps us eradicate the habit of ill will or anger.  We are not angry beings - our true nature, is “Eternal, Joyous, Selfless and Pure” - we are beings of love, compassion, and peace, wishing others happiness.  It is this state of being that the Buddha wants us to tap into.

 

The third piece of the eightfold path is Right Speech.  If we choose our words carefully, we can make other people happy. To use words mindfully, with loving kindness, is a practice of generosity. We can make people happy simply by practicing just right speech.  This does require some Right Thought to precede it.  All the parts of the eightfold path are interrelated. In the Abhya Sutra, The Buddha gave us his framework for what is and is not worth saying.
I’ll read the whole section of the sutra....

"In the case of words that the Buddha knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial, unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them.

 

"In the case of words that the Buddha knows to be factual, true,  but unbeneficial, unendearing and disagreeable to others, he does not say them.

 

"In the case of words that the Buddha knows to be factual, true, beneficial, but unendearing and disagreeable to others, he awaits the proper time for saying them.

 

"In the case of words that the Buddha knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial, but endearing & agreeable to others, he does not say them.

 

"In the case of words that the Buddha knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, but endearing & agreeable to others, he does not say them.

 

"In the case of words that the Buddha knows to be factual, true, beneficial, , endearing and agreeable to others, he awaits the proper time  for saying them.
Why is that? Because the Buddha has sympathy for living beings."

  • Abhaya Sutta

 

This is a clear and complete framework.  The Buddha taught us to be more care full in what we say. If we think before we speak, many difficult situations will not arise. So much trouble and stress in life comes from things we or others say. Above all avoid lying, and any false speech.  Avoid any kind of divisive words that separate or divide people from each other.   Harming with words can be avoided. Lastly, when we realize we are indulging in idle and empty gossip, we just stop. Think before we speak.

    Lets practice these three parts of the Eightfold path together.  We can do an exercise. Simply…  Stand as you are able - Turn to each person near you -  take their hand - look into their eyes and say “Thank you“.  OK please be seated.
That feels good because you are following the Eightfold path. Founded in a realistic view of an interconnected world, it is a generous and grateful thought expressed in clear speech. “Thank you”.   When we express any gratitude we express our faith in Amida Buddha. The Wisdom and Compassion of the Universe that is our refuge.  

    This is the first of two parts talking about the Eightfold path and our daily dharma practice.  A clear view is Right Understanding that we base everything on.   Right Thought is generous and grateful thinking - putting others before self.   Right Speech is care filled speech. And quite frankly, less is more in this aspect.  Next time we will consider  Right Action,   Right Livelihood,   Right Effort,      Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration.

To finish we can share the Metta prayer…  [say after me]

May you be happy;

     May you be free from harm:

             May you receive boundless compassion;

                    And may peace and harmony fill your heart

- Namu Amida Butsu  Namu Amida Butsu  Namu Amida Butsu -



Dharma Chakra Pravar tanna Sutra    Reading - 28may17  

“Setting the Wheel of Dhamma in Motion” Sutra

[Please bow our your way to the lectern]

Thus I have heard, on one occasion the Buddha - the Blessed One - was staying at Varanasi in the Game Refuge at Isipatana. There he addressed the group of five monks:

 

There are two extremes we should avoid.On the one side, the constant following after pleasurable things.  And, on the other side, the constant following after punishment.   There is a middle path that avoids these two extremes; a path that brings restfulness of mind, supreme wisdom, joy, full enlightenment, Nirvana.

What then is this middle path?   It is the Noble Eightfold Path; it is this:

right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.

 

This is the first noble truth - we are not joyful.

Birth, decay, sickness and death is not joyful.   Contact with the pleasant is not joyful, separation from the unpleasant is not joyful, unsatisfied longing is not joyful. This is the first noble truth - we are not joyful.

 

And this is the Second noble truth of why we are not joyful.

The longing causes us to not be joyful. We thirst after individuality, enjoyment, gratification - now here - now there - it is the wanting for the gratification of desire, the longing for outward existence, the thirst for present existence. This is the Second noble truth of why we are not joyful.

 

And this is the noble truth about becoming joyful:  It is letting go that same wanting; the putting away of, the getting rid of,the blowing out of, the being free from, letting go this longing.
This is the noble truth about becoming joyful.

And this is the Fourth noble truth - the path that leads to joy.

It is the Noble Eightfold Path;  right Understanding, right Thought, right speech, right Action, right Livelihood, right Effort, right Concentration, right Mindfulness.

 

I wasn’t taught this; within me arose this light. The first noble truth - we are not joyful.  The Second noble truth of why we are not joyful. The Third Noble truth about becoming joyful.   The Fourth noble truth - the path that leads to joy.   Within me arose this understanding of These  Four  Noble  Truths.

 

I realized that I should rid myself of the cause of my suffering and become joyful.   As soon as my knowledge and insight became quite clear about each of these four noble truths, then I became certain that I had gained full insight; this knowledge and insight have arisen within me; the freedom of my heart is unshakeable; this is the end of birth and death for me.

 

Thus the Buddha spoke. In the company of the five seekers, rejoicing, praised the Buddha’s words.  And when the teaching was done, Kondanya had deep insight of truth, spotless and stainless, that whatever has a beginning in that also lies the necessity of having an end.   And when wheel of the Dharma was set forward by the Buddha, the bright ones of the universe cried out and said:“ the supreme wheel of the Dharma has been set forward by the Buddha - the wheel that can never be turned back.

Thus, in an instant, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, the cry went up. The great system of myriad worlds shook and trembled and was violently moved, and a bright, measureless light appeared in the world, stronger even than the power of the gods.

 

[Long Pause]    
We will now have a few minutes of meditation…. accompanied by music….   [Bow to altar and be seated]

Interdependence of All Things 14may17

posted May 19, 2017, 9:32 AM by Matthew Fisher

- Rev. Matthew Fisher -

Good Morning everyone. And Happy Mother's day to mothers and grandmothers here today - your special day.


It is great to see all you’all this morning. I still feel the wonderful energy of our celebration of the Buddha’s Birthday last time. Just a few of the flowers are still here. Most of them have been moved to the temple’s compost bin. Now a tasty treat for the mouse family that lives there...

    The busy life of the temple has been rolling along. Cleanup day, a New member seminar on the Shoshinge  [that we just chanted] and many weekly activities enrich our spiritual lives.  Seeing all your friendly faces is very good.  In all the temples we visited in Japan I had this sense - a home feeling. You are all very welcome here in this home.

This week we’ve been working on a new entrance to the Shasta apartment. Concrete. Removing the old concrete steps and pouring new ones. Lots of very physical labor.  We busted up several thousand pounds of debris and carted it off.  One of the day-laborers we hired asked "What Buddhism is about".   I paused…thought about saying it's about compassion, or ending suffering...instead I said it's about the Interdependence of all things.

What makes everything Interdependent is really Impermanence.  We heard that in the sutra today. It is important to see.  If we can see that, life is easier to live. The joy and humor in everything is more accessible.  The Wisdom and Compassion in the universe is more visible to us.   It was strange to be talking about impermanence, when I’d just spent a couple days pounding on 60 yr old concrete with a jack hammer.  It did seem pretty permanent. Very tenaciously clinging to its form.  But in the end the concrete’s rigidity is its downfall. Its inability to bend and change makes it break. If we understand and accept Interdependence and Impermanence  in our lives, we will break less and bend more. That is a joyful life.


The Dalai Lama once answered the question “What is Buddhism about?” with, “It's about Compassion”. This is simple, the Buddha’s compassion is immense and helping each of us to see Interdependence and Impermanence in everything is the most compassionate action.


It’s about - Interdependence and Impermanence of all things -

Everything in the world is the result of causes and conditions. Nothing exists without the many causes and the conditions necessary for it to be.  There are so very many causes and interconnected conditions in the universe. As we make our way through life, obstacles hold us back. The Other Power of Amida Buddha carries us onward in spite of obstacles.  It gives rise to our realizing that the Wisdom and Compassion of the universe is here for us - We need to see that.  We are the receivers of Great compassion.


What is this Interdependence and Impermanence I speak of?


Let’s start by talking about Interdependence. About 2600 years ago Gotama Buddha said  -


When this is, that is.

          This arising, that arises.

When this is not, that is not.

           This ceasing, that ceases.


Our tradition describes the world as a changeful web of causes and results.  We are each a chain of causes and effects.    This is the Dharma view, not the usual view of the world and ourselves, but a glimpse of Reality as it is.   We say that these causes and conditions interdependently co-arise.  The old Buddhist word for this is patiiccasamuppāda.    And everything is simultaneously interdependently co-arising.   


It is important to note that the Buddhist view does see the world as explainable. The world does make sense. And it can be penetrated or understood on deeper levels.


An example of the interdependent co-arising is the concrete block next to shasta house, in the Alley.   What is the nature of its existence? Is it real, is it permanent, is it an illusion,  is it eternal?


If you say it doesn’t exist, then I direct you to the alley. Because itis gone now. In its place is a big hole.  


If you say it does exist. Why would you say that?...but if you did. We can agree that we are talking about it so it has some element of existence even now. The ideas or memories, or in the form of the little chunks that are at the concrete plant getting ground up into new concrete.


You can see - Existence and nonexistence doesn't really accurately say what the nature of the block is.  It has some qualities of both. It depends on causes and conditions coming together.

[Describe how to make concrete. ]

Water, cement powder, gravel, mixing. Thoughts.  Reason. Constant attention and a whole lot of lifting of heavy things.  - I thought the 80 lb bags were heavy until we added the water - sheesh -  Take any of these away and the concrete is gone.  Never having existed.


The Block had so many causes and conditions required for it to “happen”. The point is that all things have necessary interdependent causes and conditions and all things are born when these are present and die when these change. Existence and Nonexistence doesn't really accurately describe the nature of things. The Birth and death we agonize over - This duality is not useful.  We live in this dual thinking all the time and it is very un-healthy.   Because it's not true.  It's not an accurate way to see the world.   If we look deeply we see that all things are impermanent. If we cling to things that are impermanent - we suffer.  If you clung to the block of concrete you’d be in pieces now.  


Another way to look at this interdependence is in the parts that make it up. Things don't have their own self existence - they can’t.  As Sakyamuni described the Phema Sutra - The River Foam Sutra -  all things - even people are really made up of five components aspects: The Five Skandas.
  

  1. Form

  2. Sensation

  3. Perception

   4.   Mental Formation

   5.  Conscious thinking          


How can what is made up of many different changeful aspects be permanent?   It can’t.   At the end of the sutra he teaches that by realizing this - what makes us up - we are liberated from our false understanding of our own permanence.  And the permanence of other things or ideas or people. Seeing this clearly can takes us out of the clinging that causes our suffering.  Clinging to all these impermanent and interdependent things doesn't make sense. Can we grab the water in a stream? No.  Sometimes realizing how reality really is - is a scary - Nothing is as it seems nor is it otherwise -  But is it essential to our accepting the the Other Power of Amida Buddha and the Nembutsu as our path to end suffering.


Sakyamuni Buddha saw that all things are really made up of these Interdependent co-arisings.  All things are not really things at all. They are events. They are Happenings. Inter-mixes of these Five Heaps.

As I quoted at the start  - The Buddha explained paticcasamuppada as,


When I am, that is.

           I arise, that arises.

When I am not, that is not.

               If I cease, that ceases.

All things change and pass away into new things.  If you just take this way from the talk today, it will give you great benefit -  Interdependence is Impermanence.  If we cling to things that change, we suffer.  


In the Tanisho Shinran Shonin left these words for us...

‘As for me, Shinran, I have never said the Nembutsu even

once for the repose of my departed father and mother. For

all sentient beings, without exception, have been our parents

and brothers and sisters in the course of countless lives in

many states of existence. On attaining Buddhahood after this

present life, we can save every one of them.’

—Tannisho  - A Record in Lament of Divergences, (CWS), P. 664


In other words, we have all been bonded to one another as father or mother or sister or brother.  We cherish all of life as the life of our parents or sisters and brothers. We are all part of each other. And he shows to us that, wherever they may be, once we become a buddha, we will be able to help them.   This is the Great Vow of Amida Buddha.   


Even the enlightenment of Amida Buddha was interdependent.  He vowed to become a Buddha only if he created a Pure Land where Dharma understanding was easy. The Vows of Amida Buddha are interdependent causes in our lives.  About 12  Kalpas ago Amida Buddha made the 48 Vows.  About 5 Kaplas ago he created his Pure Land.

In the Larger Sūtra of Immeasurable Life, Sakyamuni Buddha tells us the story of Amida Buddha, in very ancient times and possibly in another realm, there was a monk named Dharmakāra.  Dharmakāra was a former king who, having come into contact with the Buddhist teachings through the Buddha Loke-svara-raja, renounced his throne.

He then resolved to become a buddha and manifest a Buddha-Ksetra ("buddha-field") of many perfections. This aspiration is expressed in his 48 vows. They describe the type of buddha-field Dharmakāra Bhodisattva would create, the conditions for being born into that world, and what kind of beings would be reborn there.

Amida actualized the Vow by giving us a way to access his Pure Land through The Nembutsu.  He created our interdependence with the wisdom and compassion of the universe.  By cultivating True Entrusting in the Vow.  By truly trusting that Amida Buddha is here for us -  Being Truly grateful for that Other Power we feel in our daily life, we are able to live a joyful life.   I am grateful for this interdependence. It is our interdependence with each other and with our world and ultimately with everything. If we weren't interdependent with everything nothing would be possible.  


His Vows to construct a Pure Land where all beings can attain Enlightenment deeply express the principle of interdependence. Each Vow links the Bodhisattava's Enlightenment to the Enlightenment by all beings. He cannot gain it unless we all gain it together with him. We are all interconnected in The Vow.

When Amida's great vow touches our hearts, we don’t think, “Well, as long as I am happy, that’s all that matters, who cares about the rest?” - This is the thinking of someone who thinks in separateness.  The thinking of someone who has lost sight of paticcasamuppada. This is ignorance. When we have faith in Amida Buddha we think expansively of our interdependence to all life and all that is. One Shin Buddhist teacher put it like this...


"All things, the water and the air included, are linked together, one thing encircling and being encircled by the other. The mountain and the river bestow me with so many blessings. When Amida Buddha shines upon me and all of the rest of life,  we are linked together as lives saved by that light. All things on earth, all things in the universe, are in the realm of this great life-force linking us all together."

[“Buddha’s Wish For The World” by Monshu Koshin Ohtani]

From the recent past of Shinran Shonin to the distant past of Amida Buddha, these causes are still active now.    These recent and distant labels are not even real.  It is all happening right now.  Timeless time is the word Shinran Shonin used for this.

Shinran Shonin gave us these teachings as an agent of Great Compassion.  He studied the Pure Land masters and determined that an end of suffering was possible thru - taking refuge in Amida Buddha by the Nembutsu.  Having deep and abiding faith in interdependence and impermanence is the way to happiness.  That is exactly what the Phema Sutra shows us.  Shinran focused on unburdening us of the arduous path of self-effort as taught in other schools of Buddhism and instead showed that the interdependence with the Other Power of Amida Buddha is the primary cause of our enlightenment. We change as it changes, we become as it becomes. When I am, that is. I arise, that arises.  When I am not, that is not. If I cease, that ceases.  We are impermanent and interdependent.



- Conclusion -

We can go back to the question -  What is Buddhism About ?

Its about Impermanence and Interdependence  and If we cling to things that are impermanent?  - we suffer.  If we don’t cling we are joyful.


This interdependence means that Everything is really an event in a chain of causes and results.  This is the Dharma view, not the usual view of the world and ourselves, but here we glimpse Reality as it is. We can see everything as a changeful flux.   Everything is without its own inherent existence. Everything is Impermanent and Interdependent.  Why would we ever consider clinging to such a world - what is there to cling to?  We live in a wonderful changing matrix =  Form - Sensation - Perception - Mental formation and Conscious thoughts.  We are just part of this. Intimately connected to all that is.  


Even the concrete is changeful.  It is Interconnected and Impermanent.  Nothing is more impermanent than water. But concrete is made from water. Always changing form.  Always becoming.  We are always changing and becoming.


We can see things that may be holding us back in our spiritual growth.  As we move along -  it is always our clinging and selfishness holds us back. Wanting to be like concrete seems great - but it's not.  If we let go -  If we have faith that the changes will be beneficial; if we ride along with the flow of life - we are OK just as we are. We say the Nembutsu in gratefulness for the Wisdom and compassion of the universe. We can accept ourselves and others - as they are.  We all have stuff, some of it severe, even so,  Amida Buddha created a way for us to access freedom from endless cycles of suffering. Even in our busy lives, faith in Amida can bring us to understanding.  Shinran Shonin has shown us that.  Through the Great Compassion of Amida Buddha wisdom is available to us all, right now.

The Metta prayer says it well…  [say after me]

May you be happy;

                     May you be free from harm:

                          May you receive boundless compassion;

                               And may peace and harmony fill your heart

- Namu Amida Butsu  Namu Amida Butsu  Namu Amida Butsu -

*In great gratitude to all the dharma teachers who .made this talk possible.

 


THE PENA SUTRA - Shakayamuni Buddha's Discourse on River Foam

Reading 14 May 2017

The Buddha was staying with the Avojans, on the banks of the Ganges River. He addressed those assembled “friends, suppose that a large glob of foam were floating down the river, and a person with good eyesight saw it and clearly examined it. To them it would appear empty, void, without any substance.
For what substance could there be in glob of foam?


“In the same way, a practicer well-versed in the Dharma observes and examines any Physical form that is past, future, or present, internal or external, obvious or subtle, common or extraordinary, near or far. To those well-versed in the Dharma it appears empty, without any substance.
For what substance could there be in form that is constantly changing?


“Now suppose that in the rainy season it is raining fat heavy drops and a water bubble appears and disappears on the water. A person with good eyesight sees this and clearly examines it. The water bubble would appear empty, void, and without substance. For what substance could there be in a water bubble?


“In the same way a practicer of the Dharma observes and examines feelings - past, future, or present - a   feeling that is internal or external, obvious or subtle. To those well-versed in the Dharma it appears empty, without lasting substance.
For what substance can there be in feelings that are constantly changing?


“Now suppose during the hot season a mirage was shimmering. A person sees it and clearly examines it. The mirage would appear empty.
For what substance could there be in a mirage that is constantly changing?


“In the same way a practicer of the Dharma examines any perception that is past, future, or present, internal or external, common or extraordinary. Well-versed in the Dharma, it appears empty, void, without substance.

For what substance can there be in perceptions that are constantly changing?


“Now suppose that a person is seeking wood for carving? They go to a forest with a sharp ax. There they find a large banana tree. They cut it at the root and remove the top. They peel away the outer skin and don’t find any wood at all. They clearly examine the banana tree and it appears empty, without heartwood substance for what substance could there be in a banana tree?


“In the same way a practicer of the Dharma observes mental formations that are past, future, or present, internal or external, obvious or subtle. To those well-versed in the Dharma mental formations appear void and without substance. What substance is there in mental formations that are constantly changing?


“Now suppose a magician does a magic trick and a person with good eyesight clearly sees the trick. The trick appears without substance.

For what substance could there be in a magic trick?


“In the same way a practicer of the Dharma observes any conscious thinking - past, future, or present, internal or external, obvious or subtle. To them consciousness appears without substance. For what substance could there be in consciousness that is impermanent and rooted in ignorance of Four Noble Truths?


“Seeing these Five Aggregates clearly, a follower of the Dharma grows less deluded by form, feelings, perceptions, less deluded by mental formations, and by conscious thinking. They grow less deluded by The Five Clinging-Aggregates.


“Less deluded they grow dispassionate. Through dispassion they are released. With release there is the knowledge that they are released from clinging. They know that the cycle of birth is ended,  the fully integrated life has been lived,  and the path complete. They know here will be no more moments rooted in ignorance.”



[Long Pause]


We will now have a few minutes of meditation - accompanied by music….


[Bow to altar]



Everyday Suchness - Chop Wood Carry Water 12 jun 16

posted Jun 18, 2016, 10:29 AM by Reno Budd

--- Namandabu - Namandabu - Namandabu ---


So happy to see you all here today. It really feels like summer!  If you are new to our temple. Welcome!  The life of the temple has been full and joyful since we last talked.  We’ve done a couple hospital visits and one on one discussions with members.  We work to make this place a welcoming and sustainable home for Buddhism.  The sangha has made this possible.  It's a peaceful place. It is a gentle place where troubles and strife seldom enter.   It is a place where we take the time to be with each other.   And where  we are all able to grow and share in the Dharma.  Thank you.

Next week we’ll have our Moon Rabbit Cafe and share food and community with 150 guests.  Bring friends, invite anyone.


The title of my talk is “Chop Wood and Carry water”.  As I prepared and studied, I found an interesting effect.   I would  do some writing and then I would see those words  “Chop Wood and Carry water”.  And I would think of some chore or project, and off I would go to do just that.   Then I'd get back to the Dharma talk writing, see the words “Chop Wood and Carry water” and - you see where this goes - the Dharma talk isn't exactly finished - But wow! I sure got lots of chores done!


Here is what I have….Buddhism is often called a religion of enlightenment.  A way of enlightenment is better for some - The Great Natural Way.   The way of Suchness.   How to approach this idea of Suchness?  Have many of you heard this term in Buddhism before?  Ok - some.   You’ve heard the word “Tathagata”?  That's the Buddha: “He who comes from Suchness”.  Suchness = Tathata in Pali.  Maybe that's not helping.


The Buddha taught that we are not seeing reality around us in an accurate and honest way. We see through the distorting lense of the self.  Our self tends to be very centered on only its interests and has the nature of clinging. This is the source of all our sorrows and difficulties. This clinging of the self to a dynamic universe. An analogy would be if we grabbed on to things that are moving, trouble follows.  Grabbing onto a moving car is unpleasant. - If you’ve ever tried that [I have] -   It’s moving and you're not, usually your hand is the thing that breaks.  

Suchness then in my analogy is the motion of the car. The true nature of reality. Dynamic, vibrant, energetic. My self delusion sees the car as static.  We could say that the actual reality of the car is conditioned by my self and so I have a distorted picture.  What we call a conditioned view.


We see things as more complex than they are. We conjure up subject and object out of what is really just suchness. We condition this reality with an extra dimension that doesn't really exist.  We are “dimensionally challenged”.  Even the Buddha had difficulty explaining un-conditioned reality to conditioned beings?  Language and vocabulary are not suited. Both Suchness and our selfish delusion are exist in the same space and time. They are not separate. They are interpenetrating realities.  

Suchness is the true mode of being that underlies all. It is non-duality.  “Diving into the oneness of reality!” as we do in gassho.


This might start to sound a bit cooky. Since we believe our selfish perceptions are “reality”, then for our world to be real, we have to perceive it as something. It can’t just BE.  We have to judge it, or name it, or describe it in some way. The self thinks we perceive the world through words, through ideas. But in fact that is chattering of the monkey mind, drowning out the harmony of reality that lies before us.


Have you noticed, everybody is taking pictures of things lately. I made fun of Selfie-ness last time. Somehow if I have a picture of me with the cake, it makes the cake more real - right. This obsession with posting pictures is just the self wanting to freeze things, capture moments in data, petrify them in time, and make them fixed - a wish that comes counter to the fact that everything is moving and changing.  But Suchness, is right now.  Before we name it or describe it or form an opinion about it. Suspend the monkey chatter and you will be relating to Suchness, each moments the as-is-ness there to experience.


Where can we see this Suchness? Everywhere. Everyday.  When life is simple it's much easier to experience Suchness - a pre-conceptual oneness with reality. It lives in everyday moments.  Tiny moments.  Like our breath.  Or dew drop on a blade of grass.  Those little teeny tiny baby toe nails!  In the “Chopping of wood and the carrying of water” we all must do.

Too often we approach life looking for the next “big thing”.   When really, what we seek is there all the time.
Suchness is reality as it is. It is the love that is present in the world for us - it's always here. Infinite and available. It is in our lives all the time, but we seldom realize it. We long for it. A drenching Dharma Rain. Diving into the oneness of reality. Immersion in that reality of love everywhere. We are not alone or separate in darkness when we take refuge in infinite compassion.  Most of the time we avoid this truth. It's amazing but the self will actively suppress our experience of suchness. We have a spark of understanding inside us - our Buddha nature.  And when we kindle that spark we have bodhicitta - the wish to reach enlightenment for the sake of all beings. Suchness was what the Buddha realized in his enlightenment.  Basking in the Dharma Rain under that Bodhi tree.


“Chop wood carry water”  comes from a Zen Koan.  A word puzzle give to a student to shake them out of a conditioned view.   Once a Zen student in China asked his master. “What do I need to do to follow the Buddha's way?”   The answer he got was…

“Before Enlightenment , chop wood carry water,  after Enlightenment chop wood carry water”.

Often students would practice for many years in the monastery before the teacher shared an insight like this.   The tendency is for us to think that Buddhism is a thing we do - Like chanting, or meditating or studying the Dharma.    In this message is a clue. A hint that the grand experience of a life free from suffering - What the Buddha offers us - is actually right here. Right now.  But we don't notice.


If we are mindful in daily acts that sustain life, we can we forget our self-centered strivings.   Koans are supposed to be puzzling. They hint to us. The Pure Land is not far away. You don't have to die to go there. It is right here in your chopping and your carrying. It will be here once your mind changes.   We encounter suchness everyday - the true nature of reality - undistorted and immediate - but we don't allow it in.


What usually happens is we fall back on bad habits - Called The 5 bad habits of the self - they have kept us bound and blinded for so long. These old upside-down views are what we use to explain and categorize our experience whole life.   As the Lotus Sutra described us “dried-out living beings, abiding in suffering and without peace and bliss”


The many troubles in our lives exist because we do not live in harmony with the Suchness that surrounds us.  The Buddha warns us against The 5 Bad habits of self -

competition - to believe I must win and you must lose for me to be happy is a grave delusion. Really win-lose thinking is actually lose/lose thinking.

deception - we tend to deceive others and ourselves. We compromise and rationalize to avoid criticism or acquire some gain.

dependency - We look to others to provide our livelihood and basic needs. We look to others to tell us how to think, feel, and be.

egoism - thinking and acting as though only my way is right results in unfortunate Karmic fruits.

laziness - we think that we can succeed without exerting our own effort in life.

These are all unnatural and calculating acts. Our small mind believes we have to do these things to survive, but like the monkey caught in a trap. To be freed we have to let go. These five habits blind us to the love and compassion that is here, everywhere for us. We can’t see that we are ok just as we are.   When we return to chopping wood and carrying water these five habits can melt away.

In our Shin Buddhist tradition we have the example of the Myokonin - these wonderful sincere people.  Their lives are without these five bad habits. In contrast, they show us how to live a peaceful life in a Buddhist way. By following the natural flow of life. By listening deeply to the Universe around us. By accepting the predominant effects of Other Power.  And by living in a state of True Entrusting. They live without calculation or pretense.  They cultivate a habit of profound trust and confidence. That is what we can call faith in the Buddha - Shinjin.  The Myokonin show us how to align faith with confidence in the Dharma - To just Chop wood and Carry water.


Myokonin are people like Doshu, Saichi and Issa.  Doshu of Akao traveled with our second founder -here- Rennyo Shonin.  He was his bodyguard at times.  These were tough times and as Rennyo revived Shin Buddhism, he experienced growing popularity and violent jealousy from older schools.  Doshu was a protector.

He is famous for many things but I will share his New Year's resolutions 1501.  He made 21 of these, but we’ll just hear a few….

The Resolutions Made on 24th December, 1st Year of Emperor Bunki

  1. Don’t neglect [as long as you live] the One Great Matter of Rebirth in the Pure Land.

  2. If you find yourself in a place where evil is being committed, leave immediately without arguing whether it’s right or wrong.

  3. If you are still alive tomorrow and you become lazy with regard to the Dharma, have shame, break free of your laziness and behave in the light of the Buddha.         -Doshu

The Myokonin way of living follows the flow of life. Being in the flow of the universe - Suchness.  An infinite universe that is full of compassion and wisdom. Naturalness is the way.   Accepting the gentle Dharma Rain where it falls.   This simple mindful living allows Deep hearing - Monpo- to develop. Deep hearing of the light. Hearing the call of Amida Buddha. Infinite love is here, calling to us all.

The Myokonin life of naturalness answers the deepest question: "Who am I? with this...

"I am nothing but this moment in the flow of life. I am nothing but this moment in the flow of life.    This flow is not in our control. It is the flow of the universe itself. The life of the universe flows in me and I just flow with life and that is myself. We do make plans. We have to. And we do make good efforts, but in the end what happens is not our own doing - It is Life's doing."  - Rev. Kiyozawa


Somehow they don’t worry all the time. We do worry a lot of the time. We worry about politics and we worry about our food. We worry about how others see us and we worry if others know what we think of them.  If we spent half the worry time on appreciating and just being grateful for the blessings in our lives, we would be much happier and more of service. We just chop wood and carry water and be with it - not to worry.  In the small moments we can let true life flow as it will, and be free.  That is the Myokonin’s life. And they share with us.


For Doshu everyday was a good day because it flowed from within naturally. Without pretense - no false front was necessary. He was sincere and earnest in living himself as he was. Many of us worry because we are hiding something. We live double lives and that causes our worry. What if they find out my secrets? I am not that smart? I am not that strong? Will they still love me?  But does it help?
Without falsity life will be at ease - naturally.   A life of naturalness is a life of freedom, where there is no need for useless worry - a life of oneness with the spiritual laws of nature - harmonizing and blending.  A life in the flow of Naturalness.


And Saichi the Clog maker, he was a simple man in the 1800’s.  A wonderful person for whom Suchness was accessible and available in his daily life.  As he literally chopped wood, making wooden shoes, for a living. He would work and all the while say the nembutsu. When a poem came to him, he would write it down on one of the wood shavings from his plane. He wrote thousands of poems. Here are a few….

No clinging to anything

No clinging to the small self,

No clinging to the Teaching.

This is in accord with the Dharma

"Namu-amida-butsu!"

And writing about his realization of Suchness...

My eyes change, the world changes.

This place turns into the Pure Land.

How happy I am! Namu-Amida-Butsu.

And writing about his experience of Suchness...

How happy I am!

I cannot see Namu-Amida-Butsu with my eyes,

Because it is too vast a gift to see with my eyes.

To see Suchness

I have to be embraced in Suchness.

Everything is entirely in Suchness.


And Kobayashi Issa was a myokonin of the 1700s.  A Shin Buddhist poet/priest who some of you have heard of. He was a master at seeing naturalness. He captures an essence with this insight into cherry blossoms…

Simply trust   simply trust!   Cherry blossoms in bloom
Tada tome tada tome to ya sakura saku

Simply trust, simply trust!  We can experience Suchness every day. As we chop our wood and carry our water - we feel it.  We can simply trust. We can let go the calculating mind. Avoiding the 5 bad habits of self and allow ourselves to hear deeply.  The Dharma Rain is there. It comes to us in the form of the Nembutsu. We can let love rain down on us as Saichi did.  If we take refuge in the Buddha. Our simple trust is important. It is profound - trust that you are ok just as you are. The Great Vow is for you.


A very insightful definition of happiness is to be "in the flow" where we lose our self in suchness.   This happens to artists, and athletes, and moms washing babies.  You and me [duality] melt away.  There is life happening. We do glimpse Suchness when we “Chop and Carry.  "I am nothing but this moment in the flow of life". I need to let it flow over me. I melt away. It rains down everywhere.  On good and bad, without distinction.  Good will flow when we continue to chop wood and carry water. Present in each moment of the simplicities of life.  Mindful of the wondrous miracle the enfolds us.   We hear deeply the patter of Dharma Rain - it is wisdom and compassion of the Buddha gently falling.

In the flow of a the task at hand, our Chopping and Carrying we Simply Trust.  With deep confidence in the wisdom and compassion of the universe that wishes us well.  In those small moments reality calls out to us and says these words…. Please repeat after me...

           May you be happy;

                     May you be free from harm:

                          May you receive boundless compassion;

                               And may peace and harmony fill your heart

- Namu Amida Butsu  Namu Amida Butsu  Namu Amida Butsu -




Reading 12 jun 16

"Dharma Rain”
  from the Lotus Sutra…

It rains equally everywhere

Falling alike in the four directions

Pouring without measure

saturating all the land.

In the mountains, streams and steep valleys,

In deep recesses, there grow

Grasses, trees, and herbs,

And trees, both great and small,

The grains, shoots, and plants,

The sugar-cane and the grape vine;

All are nourished by the rain,

And none fail to be enriched.

The parched ground is soaked,

The herbs and trees together flourish.

Issuing from that cloud

Water of a single flavor

Moistens grasses, trees and forests

Each according to its measure

All of the trees,

Great, medium and small,

According to their size

Can grow and develop.

When reached by that single rain

The roots, stalks, branches, and leaves,

Flowers and fruits with luster and color,

All are fresh and shining.

According to their substance and    marks,

And natures, either great or small

They alike receive moisture

And each one flourishes.


The Buddha, in the same way

Manifests within the world

Just like a great cloud

Covering over everything.

Having come into the world

For the sake of living beings,

He sees and expounds

The reality of all Dharmas.

The Great Sage, the World Honored One,

In the midst of the multitudes

Of gods and humans

Proclaims these words saying:

"I am the Thus Come One - The Ta-ta-ga-ta

The doubly complete honored one.

I appear within the world

Like a great cloud,  Moistening all

The dried-out living beings,

So they all leave suffering

And gain peace and bliss,  Worldly joy

And the joy of Suchness.

All gods and humans assembled here

Listen singlemindedly and well.

You should all come here

To behold the Unsurpassed Honored One,

The World Honored One,

The one beyond compare.

To bring peace and ease to all beings

Manifest within the world

And for the sake of all, speak

The sweet dew of pure Dharma

The Dharma of a single flavor,

That of liberation and Nirvana.

using a single, wondrous sound

I proclaim this principle

Constantly creating the causes and conditions

For the Great Vehicle.


We will now have a few minutes of meditation - accompanied by music.

Celebrating Our Buddha Nature 15may16

posted May 18, 2016, 4:17 PM by Reno Budd



Hanamatsuri Service May 15, 2016 Dharma Talk - Celebrating Our Buddha Nature

Rev. Shelley Fisher 15may16

Good morning to you all and welcome!  How many of you noticed our beautiful new sign on the front lawn as you walked to the Temple?  Isn’t it wonderful? Thank you to Rev. Matthew, Mike Croft, Monty Deorhing and Kris Nash for your help in making it all come together!   Thanks to everyone who helped with setup yesterday. It was a lot of fun!

Today we celebrate Shakyamuni Buddha’s birthday!  Let’s take some time and reflect on the birth story Rev. Matthew read to us.  It is helpful to understand the meaning behind the legend.  It sounds like a very fanciful story. The Buddha had many many lives before he descended from Tushita Heaven. In Dharma school we often read one of these Jataka tales and reflect on its meaning in our lives.

What interesting imagery is in the story? The White Elephant.  The baby standing upright. The Seven Steps.  And the “elephant in the room”from the beginning of the story - it is an immaculate conception of sorts. [to borrow a phrase]     
Some parts of the story aren't fanciful at all.  Queen Maya wanted to give birth at her family home with her mother there, but they didn't make it.   That seems pretty realistic. It gives me a sense that this really happened, little surprises and all.  

What about the six tusked white elephant that appeared in Queen Maya’s dream?  You all saw it here - in this beautiful painting donated by Moon, Sunny and Dan especially for today's celebration. The White Elephant is a sacred animal representing fertility and wisdom.  In several sutras, Bodhisattvas are said to ride on a six-tusked white elephant like this one.

And why six tusks?
The six tusks represent overcoming attachment to the six senses, we chant from the Heart Sutra - “no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind”. Remember in Buddhism we have six, including Mind.  We get attached and cling to these senses and their sensations [sense objects].  But we need to let go.   Life is joyful when we just let sensations happen - without our wanting, clinging, or aversion.

The six tusks can also represent the Six Paramitas - the six ways to the Other Shore  - giving, morality, patience, diligence, contemplation, and wisdom.   When we apply these values life becomes joyful.

When Shakyamuni Buddha was born he stood up straight, took seven steps, and declared "I alone am the World-Honored One." (so beautifully portrayed in Moon’s painting here) And he pointed up with one hand and down with the other, to indicate he would unite heaven and earth. The seven steps he took represent the seven directions -- north, south, east, west, up, down, and right here -- seven steps going beyond this self centered world of Samsara.  He declares, "I alone am the World-Honored One" - showing his awareness that after so many lifetimes, he will be a great teacher and lead all sentient beings to a joy filled life  - free from suffering.

When we celebrate the amazing birth of Shakyamuni Buddha we are also celebrating our own birth.  We honor and treasure each birth today. It is a rare and unique event to even be born human, so we celebrate.  The Buddha’s teaching of the interdependence of all things makes it clear that our birth is the result of sooo many causes and conditions. Realizing this we can see that our birth is truly a rare and wonderful gift. We have a deep obligation to live this life in mindfulness and Joy and compassion.  Sharing the teachings of the Buddha when we can.

Shakyamuni Buddha was born a bodhisattva - a Wonderful Being - who fully realized his Buddha Nature.  He taught that we are all born with Buddha Nature - it is universal.  Why did Shakyamuni Buddha speak of Buddha-Nature? He wanted to tell us all that we each have Buddha nature - We have the potential of becoming a Buddha.

Bodhidharma’s insight says, “To find a Buddha, all you have to do is see your nature.”             
Universal Buddha-Nature means that “All sentient beings have Buddha-Nature, but it is dormant (asleep inside of us), or covered with our delusions”.  Amida Buddha was once one of us. It was through the perfect maturing of his Buddha nature that he completely rid himself of clinging and attachment for the sake of all sentient beings.  Amida Once suffered as we suffer now, that brings us close to his heart, awakening our minds to the presence of Infinite Wisdom and Infinite Compassion - Amida Buddha - in us.  Amida Himself is our Buddha-Nature.  Amida's Great Love and Compassion is our Buddha-Nature.  Nirvana (which we can easily realize in the Pure land) is our Buddha-Nature perfectly expressed.  Amida’s Great Vow -  “I will become a Buddha when,  all Sentient beings can easily be born into my Buddha Field through my merits on their behalf.”


This is our Buddha-Nature fully expressed.  

Everyone has Buddha nature, the potential to become a Buddha.  It is in the sky-like nature of our mind. Utterly open, free and limitless, it is fundamentally so simple and so natural - it is never complicated, corrupted, or stained. It is so pure that it is beyond even the concept of purity and impurity.  When we think of our Buddha nature as sky-like it helps us to imagine its all-embracing boundlessness; beyond that Buddha nature has an added quality - open and expansive and clear like the radiant sky but with awareness.


Because everyone has Buddha nature, we treat all with the highest respect and greet each other with deep reverence in gassho, a bow.   This is a wonderful part of our teaching - we respect others, your family, friends, teachers and even people you do not know as a Buddha.  This gratitude begins in our minds and expands out.  This attitude in gassho can start to vibrate in our environment.  It is through gassho that we can fulfill the Buddha nature within us.  Buddha nature is the pure white lotus within us. The lotus flower grows in muddy water, rising and blooming above the muck - coming to full flower we experience enlightenment.  The lotus reminds us of the expression of our true spirit, born in murkiness fully flowering in the Pure Land.

Why is Amida's Land called pure? Because Amida's Mind is pure, Pure Wisdom and Pure Compassion.  The sentient beings born in His Land realize this same Pure Mind - the very same Pure Mind. Amida's Pure Mind and the believer's muddy mind become one and the same. Just as the white lotus rises out of the muddy pond pure and untainted.

Many Dharma talks were shared by Shakyamuni Buddha during his 45 years of giving his important teachings.  About 2600 years ago. Often he taught about the Tathagata Amitabha (Amida Buddha).  Amida was the truth he had found in his Enlightenment. Shakyamuni Buddha was a manifestation of Amida Buddha, he himself was Amida.

Today during this special Flower Festival service is a time for us to recognize our Buddha nature and rededicate ourselves as we contemplate the importance of the birth of our teacher, spiritual guide and friend, Shakyamuni - The Sage of the Shakya People - the Buddha.

We celebrate the Buddha’s birthday today.  We remember to be grateful for all that he has taught us - grateful to be born human - this wonderful unrepeatable life, grateful for showing us that we are all connected to each other, grateful to know that we all are born with Buddha nature, and grateful for Amida’s Vow reaching out to all of us, no matter how troubled, no matter how happy - that we may find Joy in life.

Mindful Living - 8fold Path Part1 17apr16

posted Apr 23, 2016, 12:31 PM by Matthew Fisher

Rev. Matthew Fisher  -


Welcome everyone.  So good to be together today.   I’m happy to see you all this morning.  Young and old and in between - everyone is here.  There is a lot going on with Spring coming outside.  Quite wonderful.

This week we participated in the Nevada Prayer Breakfast which was a  wonderful time to share with brothers and sisters of other faith traditions.

The sangha council filed a table of Buddhists. Next year maybe we can have two tables of sangha members sharing the experience.  

We removed about 100lbs of weeds from the back alley!   Now when you park in the overflow area [that collection agency’s parking lot back there with yellow signs]  it looks quite nice.   Pulling weeds is a good meditation - or misogi in Japanese - a purification, one weed at a time. Letting go the weeds in our selves.


We are here today to talk about living a mindful life - a Buddhist life. This is often a puzzle for people.  When we look at the life of the Buddha, it was so very profound and any of us would likely not be able to live like that.

The Buddha taught that our craving and feeling of want is extinguished or “blown out” by living mindful of eight guidelines.   What we call living the eightfold path.  He taught about this in the reading today - his first Dharma talk after enlightenment - the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta - The Setting the Wheel of Dhamma in Motion - Sutra.


Sometimes people read about the Eightfold Path and think - “Huh? I could never do that. It is so strict.”  Well, it is a disciplined life.  The Buddha never said in so many words “You should .  He said If you live by these guides your suffering will melt away - Joy will flow in.

A Buddhist life has a Questing quality.  We live moving toward something -  toward joy, toward wholeness. We are not responsible or capable of being a Buddha today.   And that is OK - you are OK just as you are.   This Questing feeling sets an intention - awakening in us the urge toward wholeness - what we call Bodhicitta.  This Buddhist life is lived in becoming.  It is a habit of living and takes time to develop foster and cultivate. It is the process of becoming more human.  An important aspect of this becoming is realizing that we can’t make it on our own.  


2600 yrs ago the Buddha identified four amazing truths. He wasn't the first to  discover these, but we know from him that they have been operative in our Universe from many kalpas into the past.   The Eightfold Path is one of these truths.

Lets look at these Four Noble Truths.   When Sakyamuni Buddha reached  enlightenment under the bodhi tree he saw clearly these Truths…

  1. Life is often difficult and stress filled - but it can be joyful.

  2. How we handle the energies that arise in response to stresses is the cause of joy or  - most of the time - sorrow and suffering.


  1. When we are mindful and respond to the world in a realistic way - the stress melts away - and Joy flows in.


  1. To do this, we get in the habit of living as the Buddha recommended.  Like the Dharma Wheel here - 8 spokes - the Eightfold path.


The Fourth Noble Truths end with the Eightfold path. The Eight habits of the BUDDHIST LIFE are…

Right Understanding     Right Thought         Right Speech       Right Action

Right Livelihood      Right Effort       Right Mindfulness    Right Concentration


You notice that each of the eight begins with “RIGHT”.  Remember it does not really mean RIGHT - Like RIGHT and WRONG. That’s a very dualistic view and not a Buddhist view. The original word is samma, something like "best" or "appropriate" or "well-directed".  A  more subtle meaning.  Really closer to... juuust right.  The Buddha used the analogy of a harp string to explain..... What is just right when it comes to the strings of a harp?

Too loose - It makes no sound - This is living in laxness. A lazy undirected life has little purpose - no destination - no Bodhicitta. This is not a spiritual life.

Too Tight - The string may break.  When it’s too tight we live life in should world.  “You can't”  “Do this”  “Don't do that.” Rules and regulations pile up and compound and eventually we are wrapped so tight - that we break!  This is not discipline - it’s oppression.

Just Right  - The string gives a beautiful note of music.  As always let's understand the word RIGHT today as Juuuust Right!

The Buddha taught that we will benefit if we live mindful of these eight spokes of the wheel of life.   Mindfulness is living life present and aware of what we see before us in each moment. The alternative to this is delusion. The habit of seeing what we want to see all around us, or seeing what we fear all around us, all the time.  We live in aversion or attachment.  This is an unfortunate alternative, but very common way of living - my guess is that better than 90% of our time we live in one of these modes.   We seem to get in the habit of ignoring what is happening around us because much of it is not what we want.   It contains painful experiences - thoughts and emotions that we really don't want to spend our time on.   That is because of their difference between what we want to happen and what is happening.   The Buddha helps us soften the habit of wanting things to be different than they actually are.  
Through the eightfold path, we build a habit of letting go of strong aversions and strong attachments bit by bit, little by little.   This is a very easy path.  It is suited to regular people with regular lives.   No big requirements, no renunciation.   Only a radical acceptance of life and taking refuge in a universe larger than ourselves.  We can accept that we are not cut-out to be fantastic spiritual people.  Maybe we tend to jump to conclusions and get enraged at the slightest offence - ok there we are.   And we accept that the universe has immense and limitless compassion for us even so.   And immense and infinite wisdom if we only listen deeply...in the silence.  Through mindfulness this is what we can see.  We are goof-balls in so many ways and the universe is friendly, wise, and compassionate.  We are goof-balls - Bonbunin is how Shinran says it in the Shoshinge we chanted - and Amida Buddha holds us, never to be let go.   It is the Eightfold Path that gets us to realize this.


The Eightfold Path is hard to share in this setting because there are eight spokes in the wheel.  People don't easily learn 8 things in a sitting.   But one at a time it can be easy and fun!


In effect these are eight ways of living that we need to make habit.   These are eight different aspects about ourselves that we need to monitor, practice, and probably change to help us rise to who we can be - spiritually.   The simple goal is to lead a moral life, based in compassion and wisdom.


When we learn the Eightfold Path it helps to use a memory trick - a mnemonic -  to help remember all eight….

Understanding   Thought   Speech   Action   Livelihood   Effort     Mindfulness     Concentration
Until                 Thoughts    Stop       Acting    Like        Excited    Monkeys        Confusion!

The first of the eight is ‘right understanding’.  Anything you do is more effective if you start with a clear view.   That is why we start with Right Understanding. It is the foundation. In Right Understanding (sammā-ditthi) we see clearly the four nobel truths...

  1. Life can be stressful.

  2. Stress comes from how we see things.

  3. Stress is gone when see the world as it truly is.

  4. This habit of living a Joyful Life has Eight aspects.


Right Understanding is an understanding of karma, and knowing that all our actions of Body, Speech, and Mind have results. This is an immutable law of nature.  Some actions bring us to the Dharma, some actions lead away.
Right Understanding is also understanding non-self - how we are not self-existent objects, but rather we are really events in the flow of everything.   We are interdependently co-arising with the entire universe.

We trust in the Wisdom and Compassion of the Universe. And we see our place as just one tiny piece in a vastness beyond comprehension. The Nembutsu - here - is right understanding. Mindfulness of the Buddha.  Recognizing that I am taking refuge in the Buddha all the time.


Right Understanding is having these wise beliefs.  Beliefs that reduce suffering, and avoid increasing stresses in life.  These beliefs  are the foundations of our understanding of the Dharma.  A of clarity of view.

This week a couple people asked me if Buddhism is a religion?  A question I get often enough.  Looking around...I have to say...if it isn't, it's doing a pretty good job of impersonating one.  Why is this an important question?  Really what they are asking  is…
“Do I need to buy into any blind dogmas or arbitrary beliefs to be part of Buddhism?”  
The most honest answer is “yes - you do’. You have to develop Juuust Right Understanding to build your world view on:  The Four Noble Truths, The law of Karma, the Non-Self nature of all things, and the Enlightenment of the Buddha are logical premises of Buddhist life.  They make sense, but do require deep and abiding faith.  Confident Faith that builds as we  learn more and experience the Buddha's way.


Please remember that Right Understanding also includes a kind of mental discipline to avoid some kinds of questions − questions that distract us , or are unanswerable, and questions that are really “academic” - meaning even if we answered them, they wouldn't bring joy. The Buddha wouldn’t answer those questions because they did not lead to joy.   So some mental discipline is needed here too.


How do we  get to juuust right understanding?   Through experience, and mindfulness, and some study of the Dharma.  Reading and participation at the temple’s classes and seminars from time to time builds Right Understanding.  Most of all asking questions fosters Right Understanding.


Remember our Mnemonic for the eightfold path…
Until   Thoughts   |  Stop   Acting    Like  |  Excited   Monkeys…  Confusion!
Understanding  Thought  Speech  Action  Livelihood  Effort  Mindfulness  Concentration


The second habit we cultivate is right thought -- juuuust  right thought.  Right thoughts have a pattern of letting go. Right thought puts our thoughts in a more self-less rather than self-ish cast.   Most of the time we are motivated by one kind of personal greed or another. When we foster thoughts of letting go we are - in fact - letting go of selfishness -  practicing more self-less behavior helps us toward a true view of life.  By curbing our thoughts that come from these thirsts for more stuff - we are making a habit of self-less-ness.   This brings the realization that everyone is in the same boat as us, they want happiness and to avoid pain - we can live in a way that helps us all get there.  Instead of trying to secure happiness of just one being, this precious separate self of mine, we can think about a greater good.


So much joy and all difficulties begin in thoughts.  All our actions of body and speech start with a thought.  When we affect thought, with so little energy, we can subtly direct all our actions in a more wholesome direction


Thoughts of good will and harm-less-ness - or Ahimsa we talked about in January.  Are juuuust Right Thoughts.  The just right thoughts on Compassion are the most accurate and truthful thoughts we entertain.


The Buddha taught that we are all interconnected, so discarding our selfish pursuits and working towards the greater good is in line with reality.   At first we don’t realize or appreciate what this letting go means -  living a life more focused toward peace and letting go, mostly means giving up our greed, our anger, our jealousy, and other harmful thoughts and emotions.  These prized possessions we cherish - our wounds and indignities done to us - these we carry inside us like little caustic treasures  - what Gollum called our “precious-es”.  Juuust Right Thought leaves these behind.  Cast them off and care deeply for others.


Happiness comes through finding that true light within and without. Our true nature is Eternal, Joyous, Selfless, and Pure.    Having this Right Thought of letting go means we slowly loosen the grasp of our craving and attachment to external things. We can start to find the peace and happiness that lies within -- the great Ocean of mind -- we can hear the light that is all around us.


Cultivating juuust Right Thought of goodwill and Non-harm is quite easy.  When  unwholesome thoughts arise we can simply let them go. They are only thoughts. Actions are much more difficult to undo. Thoughts of anger affect us all at times, for anger or ill will towards anyone, the Buddha prescribes the meditation of loving kindness….

May you be happy;

 May you be free from harm:

          May you receive boundless compassion;

                      And may peace and harmony fill your heart

This helps us eradicate the habit of ill will or anger.  We are not angry beings - our true nature, is “Eternal, Joyous, Selfless and Pure” - we are beings of love, compassion, and peace, wishing others happiness.  It is this state of being that the Buddha wants us to tap back into.

A Juuust Right Thought exercise - Please close your eyes  [Bell]

Search your memory of a time an unfortunate or unkind thought arose.  What was its object. What were the circumstances. Acknowledge it as just a thought. Without judgement or recrimination.
Now remedy that thought by looking at the big picture.  Think better of it.  Realize the circumstances and replace it with a more wholesome thought.
[Bell]


Back to the Eightfold Path...
Until   Thoughts   |  Stop   Acting    Like  |  Excited   Monkeys…  Confusion!
Understanding  Thought  Speech  Action  Livelihood  Effort  Mindfulness  Concentration


The third habit that leads to the other shore is juuuust Right Speech
If we choose our words carefully, we can make other people happy. To use words mindfully, with loving kindness, is a practice of generosity. We can make many people happy simply by practicing juuuust right speech.  This does require some Just Right Thought.  All theses habits are interrelated.


I’ve got another fun mnemonic - this one is for Juuust Right Speech:
T - H - I - N - K  =  Think = Truthful - Helpful - Inspiring - Necessary and - Kind

The Buddha taught us to be more care full in what we say. If we THINK before we speak many difficult situations will not arise. So much trouble and stress in life comes from things we or others say. Above all avoid lying, and any false speech.  Avoid any kind of divisive. Words that separate or divide people from each other.   We refraining from all aggressive or irritated scolding.  This is a form of harming with words and can be avoided. Lastly, when we realize we are indulging in idle and empty gossip, we just stop. THINK before we speak.

Just Right Speech is when we communicate words of kindness and simple truth and avoid speaking about others when they are not present.   We also listen deeply to what others say in order to transform conflict into harmony.  It lives in telling our truth with care and awareness.   That was Juust Right Speach.


If you’d like to try another simple exercise - please stand up [as we are able]. Turn to a person near you.  Look into their eyes and say “Thank You” in gratitude for the Wisdom and Compassion of the Universe.   That is good.


The Eightfold path - remember our mnemonic…

Until   Thoughts   |  Stop   Acting    Like  |  Excited   Monkeys…  Confusion!
Understanding   Thought   Speech   Action   Livelihood   Effort     Mindfulness     Concentration

Next time we will talk about…
Right Action - we act and give in mindfulness - with an open heart and abstain from harming, from stealing, from misusing sexuality. This is juuust Right Action.

Right Livelihood - Mindful of our time at work - We avoid professions and jobs that defile or harm.
Right Effort - Following this Path takes effort.  It is against our Bonbu nature to do these things and think these ways.

Right Mindfulness - This is really being aware of the boundless force of life, love, compassion, and wisdom that pervades the ten quarters of the universe.    

And  Right Concentration - This means we practice deep hearing of the light.


Understanding   Thought   Speech   Action   Livelihood   Effort     Mindfulness     Concentration
Until                 Thoughts    Stop       Acting    Like        Excited    Monkeys        Confusion!

Conclusion - Living the Eightfold Path is rewarding and wonderful and we do it in dedication to all sentient beings.  The idea of the path is to create a wholesome habit of living.  It gives us spiritual wings.  And leads us to harmony with the Four Noble Truths...

  • Life can be stressful.

  • Stress comes from how we see things.

  • Stress is gone when see the world as it truly is.

  • This habit of living a Joyful Life has Eight aspects.



The Eightfold path brings Compassion and Wisdom in balance - it  is a middle way.   In the Buddha’s teachings, we see that compassion and wisdom are like the two wings of a bird.  If one wing is weak or broken, the bird can’t fly, the same is true with our spiritual practice.  Without balance, we don’t make progress.  Imbalance results in being either a compassionate fool or an unpleasant know-it-all.  The Buddha’s goal in life is the juuust right blending of both Compassion and Wisdom.  The we can spiritually fly.


These Right Habits are a way of changing our minds to see clearly - an expansive vision of all the worlds. This is living the nembutsu.  Mindful of the Buddha, we don’t do this by our own efforts alone. And so we take refuge in Amida Buddha.  Through Amida we experience our true nature  that is Eternal, Joyous, Selfless and Pure.  Lets share our deepest wish for all beings to realize this truth. Please repeat after me...

May you be happy;

 May you be free from harm:

          May you receive boundless compassion;

And may peace and harmony fill your heart  

- Namu Amida Butsu

You Go Dharma Sister! 3 apr 16

posted Apr 3, 2016, 1:30 PM by Matthew Fisher   [ updated Apr 4, 2016, 11:28 AM ]

- 3 apr 16  - Rev Matthew Fisher -


--- Namu Amida Butsu - Namu Amida Butsu -  Namu Amida Butsu ---

So happy to see you all here today. It really feels like spring to me this morning...this time for sure?  Though shoveling snow on Monday was fun.  The life of the temple has been full and joyful.  Last weekend we had our Moon Rabbit Cafe and shared food and community with 180 guests.  A couple hospital visits and a professional clergy association meeting filled out week of priestly duties.  I take a moment to remember Aki Miller a Dharma sister who passed on this week.


Today we focus on Dharma Sisters and their contributions - the essential spirit of Buddhism absolutely includes all beings, male and female, small and big, new and old.  These are just fictional dualities - Constructs that lack in any real substance.   That said - Women have always been integral to the unfolding of Buddhist life. You all play a role that is essential to us being here together today.


I have considered so many ideas in preparation for this talk. The role of women in many Buddhist countries and historical periods.  The very nature of the Duality of women and men.   Its place in the sutras and the thought of Buddhist teachers and Bodhisattvas.   Much of this I will save for another time.  These thoughts might obscure my deep gratitude for all the women who have done most of the work of sustaining Buddhism for 2,600 years.


I had meant to give this talk closer to mother's day. But now is always a better time to do anything - right.   As we talk about many fine women of our lineage, please consider the core Buddhist values of... COMPASSION,        ACCEPTANCE, and  RIGHT EFFORT-  that they teach even today.

The story of Buddhism has many important women...

  • Queen Maya - Prince Gotama’s mother unfortunately died after the birth.

  • Sujatta - saved the Siddhartha's life with her food offerings  - her compassion lead to Siddhartha’s Enlightenment. She was the first “Buddhist” person - taking refuge under the Bhodi Tree.

  • Mahapajpati - Aunt and the only mother the Buddha ever knew. And after His enlightenment she was the leader of the nuns.

  • Soma and  Kisa Gotami - in the reading Brittany gave us to meditate on,  The Therigatta gives us a glimpse of the depth and the clarity of many gifted women.

  • Vaidehi - A queen who asks the Buddha what she can do from here prison cell and learns of the working of Great Compassion - Amida Buddha  - [She is in the Zendo section of Shoshinge.]

  • Eshinni was the wife of Shinran Shonin. Her tireless efforts and steadfast support were more than her duty. She embodies compassion and Juuust Right Effort in every way.

  • Kakushinni - the daughter of Shinran and Eshinni.  Who really created the Shin Buddhist lineage by her devotion and care for  the aging Shinran and building the memorial temple - the precursor of our own Higashi Honganji Headquarters temple in Tokyo.

  • And Alicia Matsunaga - Co-founder of this temple and driving force behind planting the seed of Buddhism in Reno.


If it were not for these women it would be impossible for us to be here together.  We say to them   -  “Thank you so much!”.  Let's say that together  - “Thank you so much!”

Thats a lot of people in my list - My dear teacher Linda Brown at Truckee High would tell me I have to pick two of them to tell you about.  

Ok - Mahapajapati   - Eshinni  

Let me consider Mahapajapati -
She was the first woman to “go forth” in Buddhism as a Bhikkhuni or nun - about 10 years after the Buddha’s enlightenment.  There had been many women lay followers by this time.  Queen Pajapati was Maya’s sister - She raised Siddhartha's after Queen Maya died just a week after the birth.  She was very important to his life and growth as a spiritual teacher.


As he grew up the king sheltered him from any religious teaching.   It must have been Prajapati who quietly nurtured Siddhartha's spiritual growth.  Is it a surprise that the young prince resolves to be a religious seeker  - when his father gave him a purely materialistic upbringing?  Kids will do that sometimes.  The pendulum swings.


With Maya’s death - Pajapati did her duty and assumed her sister's role in the palace. She gave up whatever plans and dreams she had for herself and became queen. This is the experience of impermanence - that life does not always go according to our own plan - it was deeply felt by Prajapati. Out of compassion for all she assumed this role, and focused on her new son and raised him.


As for Siddhartha, he later came to appreciate deeply the many elements that led him to his awakening, acknowledging the many Buddhas before him whose legacy made his awakening possible. This realization did not come to him in only six years of religious study and ascetic practice, growing up there was natural exposure to the religious thought of his time. Queen Pajapati was his first teacher.  A teacher of Wisdom and Compassion.


Fast forward to ten years after Siddhartha's enlightenment - He returned to the Sakya kingdom for the first time when his father died.   There was a funeral and the Buddha shared the Dharma.  Upon hearing the teaching Queen Pajapati asked to join the order.   This was a big ask. Since there was no order of nuns and the general culture treated women as property - often expecting a widow throw herself on her husband's funeral pyre.  It was a big ask.  The Buddha considered the effect on the newly created sangha.


The story in the Pali canon is as follows:

Mahapajapati went to the place where the Buddha was, approached and greeted him, and, standing at a respectful distance, spoke to him:

"It would be good, Lord, if women could be allowed to renounce their homes and enter into the homeless state under the Dharma and discipline of the Tathagata."

The Buddha considered this suggestion but gave no response. He traveled to the next town on his circuit -  she asked again that the Buddha allow women to be ordained into an order of nuns.  He said ”no” to this second request.  As they walked to Jetavana, Ananda asked the Buddha many questions about Pajapati’s request.  He asked the Buddha if women were able to reach enlightenment, the Buddha said they can.  This was a very significant thought.  All previous religious traditions specifically excluded women from this attainment.   2500 years ago the idea of gender equality was not common.

A few days later, to demonstrate her resolve, Pajapati renounced her previous life and began her own journey of enlightenment. She shaved her head like a monk, wore robes, and walked 300 miles to Jetavana Monastery where the Buddha had arrived a few days before. The story goes that a group of 500 women followed with her.

After having been rejected two times, this was probably her last opportunity to get a “yes” from the Buddha.  Ananda, [Pajapati’s other nephew and attendant to the Buddha] intervened this time to help Pajapati and her followers.  His questions had affected the Buddha’s view.

On her third request the Buddha agreed to create the order of Bhikkhunis provided Pajapati accept the eight conditions. After Pajapati accepted these administrative conditions, her requested was accepted.

Mahapajapati was really a parallel leader in early Buddhism.  Her attainments and her ultimate enlightenment were important to the sustained growth of the Buddhist sangha.   Mahapajapati request was not for herself, but out of compassion for 50% of humanity - all of humanity.  She continued to guide and nurture the order for the rest of her life.   At peace with the changefulness of existence she was not content to live out her days in courtly pursuits and embarked on a challenging and rewarding spiritual path.   She wrote…

I've been mother and son before;
And father, brother — grandmother too.
Not understanding what was real,
I flowed-on without finding [peace].

But now I've seen the Blessed One!
This is my last compounded form.
The on-flowing of birth has expired.
There's no more re-becoming now.

In the end, Gotama Buddha himself carried her body to the funeral pyre with deep gratitude.  We all have deep gratitude of Mahapajapati she was a wonderful Dharma sister: strong, independent and, compassionate.


We had that long list…Who else can I tell you about?  -  Eshinni!  Partner and wife of Shinran Shonin.


When Shinran left the monastery on Mt. Hiei and studied with Honen in Kyoto there were many other students there.  Myoko Tanemori [Eshinni] was a hand maiden for an important lady it the imperial court and met Shinran in the Pure land Buddhist groups of the time.   Honen, Shinran and others who were making the Pure Land teaching - available to all.  Eshinni wrote in a letter…

“Numerous as clouds in the sky, all sat with sleeves touching - court ladies and grave diggers, monks and lepers. No distinction. No discrimination. All reciting the nembutsu until it felt as if the place filled with an ocean of sound.”

The idea of sharing Buddhism among everyday common people did not sit well with the politically powerful monasteries and monks at the time. [1206] Honen even allowed Shinran to marry Eshinni.

“...It is important to live the Nembutsu - if you can live the Nembutsu as a monk then do that - if you have to be married to live the Nembutsu then do that...”

They were married and soon after all of Honen’s disciples were exiled [1207].  Likely Eshinni was pregnant when they had to quickly leave Kyoto. Some were executed, but the new couple was sent to Eshinni’s home province of Echigo located between the Japan sea and the Japan Alps - it is a beautiful and sometimes harsh place to live.


Their marriage is important - it was the first openly recognized marriage of a priest - this is a tradition we continue today in Shin Buddhism.  Really a teaching partnership between wife and husband and sangha.  It makes Shin Buddhist temples welcoming to householders and families. Eshinni was essential because she was the one who supported the family through their exile and travels to the Kanto region. Her management of family lands produced and supported Shinran and their children.  Shinran and Eshinni began to share the Buddhist teaching - our Nembutsu - with the people of Echigo.   The oldest Shin Buddhist temples are there. [We visited one last year on our Japan trip.]  Shinran would go on long teaching tours in the neighboring region. In those times Eshinni would share the Nembutsu with the sangha.   


When famine struck in Echigo in 1214, Eshinni collected their 4 children and several servants and migrated to the Kanto region in the East.  On foot across the spine of Honshu must have been a difficult journey.  Pregnant at the time, Eshinni is said to have chanted the Nembutsu as she carried the little-one over the mountains to Hitachi.   A new place, and a new life, but the same role. As keeper of the home temple, Eshinni supported the family and stayed in the village of Sakai in Hitachi prefecture.  Shinran traveled and taught ranging all over the Kanto area - spreading the Nembutsu teaching.


Their life was more comfortable in the Kanto, with more nembutsu followers many viable Shin Buddhist sanghas were established.  One we visited outside of Kosama,

was just a ginkgo tree where Shinran would teach when his travels came through the village.   It is now just a stump with a protective roof over it. In memory of those days.


In his 60’s Shinran retired and quietly returned to Kyoto where the whole story had begun. Eshinni and the two younger children followed Shinran to Kyoto.  Later Eshinni had to return to Echigo, she to attend to the family businesses manage their the land.  She never saw Shinran again and corresponded by letter when possible.


We know so much about Eshinni because of 10 letters written in her hand that were discovered in 1921.  They bring us vibrantly in contact with this remarkable woman.   Here is a bit on one of those letters...

“Also, [I recall] a dream I had while we were at a place called Sakai village in Hitachi. There was a dedication ceremony for a temple building...In front of the building there were lanterns [burning] bright...there were [two] Buddhist images suspended from the horizontal part of ... a shrine gate. In one there was no face... but only a core of light, as if it were the radiance of the Buddha... distinct features could not be seen, and light was the only thing there. In the other, there was a distinct face ... I asked what Buddhist images these were, and a person - I don’t remember who ... - said "The one that is only light is Master Honen. He is the bodhisattva [of wisdom] Seishi." When I asked who the other was, he said "That is [the bodhisattva of compassion] Kannon. That is none other than the priest Shinrna." Upon hearing this I was shocked [out of  my sleep], and I realized that it had been a dream.”

Then she confides in her daughter…

“... I [have remained] silent, not telling other people [about this]. But I did tell my husband [Shinran] the part about Master [Honen]. He said, "Among dreams there are many different types, but this dream must be true. There are many [other] instances of dreams in which people have seen Master [Honen] … as a manifestation of the bodhisattva Seishi. The bodhisattva Seishi is the ultimate in wisdom, so he [appeared simply] as light." I did not say anything about my husband being Kannon, but in my own mind I never looked upon him from that day forward in any ordinary way. You should ponder these things well…”


Their relationship was profound. Each considering the other an emanation of Great Compassion itself.   Eshinni shows us that when life challenges us, when we are ready to face real adversity in our lives that’s when our hearts can truly open: we hear and appreciate the wisdom and compassion of the Universe. This is when our personal spiritual journey begins - with hearts open to reality we find ourselves on the Dharma path.  Eshinni always acted out of COMPASSION. As a mother and a wife and a teacher and Nembutsu follower.   

She deeply understood - the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism…

  1. Life can be lived in abiding joy.

  2. Joy comes when we accept the changefulness around us.

  3. We can train our minds to accept a changeful world.

  4. The path to living a Joyful Life has Eight aspects.

Following the path Eshinni embodied right effort above all. Tirelessly supporting Shinran's teaching and writing. Showing that our struggles with change are not real. Things change and we naturally change with them. In gratitude and with right effort - we hear the wisdom and compassion all around us.   Joy and gratitude were hers for all of her days.


After his death, Kakushinni wanted to keep Shinran’s teaching alive and perpetuated it for his followers. She built a temple enshrining an image of Shinran. As a result, the Nembutsu teaching began to reach more people. About 50 years later, this mausoleum became an official temple and was named the “Hongwanji.” The Hongwanji temple has developed into the Jodo Shinshu school as one of the largest and most powerful Buddhist schools in Japan.


Kakushinni’s foresight and deep appreciation towards the Nembutsu teaching saved Shinran’s work and established the foundation of Shin Buddhism. She is truly the Mother of the Honganji.

Conclusion -

All the women I listed at the start were Builders and Sustainers of the tradition.  Mothers to the way of COMPASSION.   They endured and thrived in very difficult times and selflessly gave to others the gift of the Dharma.      The four noble truths teach that joy flows from ACCEPTING CHANGE.  These dear women saw changes again and again.  And learned to accept and embrace teh becoming of the world around them. Most of all they inspire us with their RIGHT EFFORT.  Each of them faced life with strength, resolve, and kindness.


As Shin Buddhists we have the advantage of being part of the Pure Land tradition, and we have a married clergy, we have a congregational system, we share a path to Enlightenment available to all - within a lifetime. It is a path of gratitude, a path of mindfulness of Wisdom and Compassion. These kind women brought the universal message of the Nembutsu - You are Ok just as you are. Troubles and all we can go forth in joy.  Grateful for the Wisdom and Compassion of the Universe.  Amida Buddha.


I am so grateful to the women who did much of the work of sustaining Buddhism for 2,600 years. They have done so much for all of us. Please send their good wishes to all sentient beings - just repeat after me...

           May you be happy;

                     May you be free from harm:

                          May you receive boundless compassion;

                               And may peace and harmony fill your heart

- Namu Amida Butsu  Namu Amida Butsu  Namu Amida Butsu -


Thanks to to the clear thoughts of : Rev. Patty Naikai, Rev Jōshō Cirlea, James Dobbens


Dharma Talk: Finding Life's Balance - Spring Equinox

posted Mar 21, 2016, 11:35 AM by Matthew Fisher

...Intergenerational Reading for 20mar16 Dharma talk....

Three Little Pigs - middle way
Rev. Matthew 20mar16

Once upon a time, far far away, in India there were three little pigs. Their names were  Tandita, Devadatta,  and Gotama.  They enjoyed dancing and singing and living outdoors together, but sometimes it was rainy or too sunny and they wished that they had a house.  


Tandita built a house of straw. It was easy to bundle up the straw and he finished his house in only half a day. It looked a lot like a pile of straw, but Tandita didn't care. He was done so quickly he spent the rest of the day singing and dancing - he was a little lazy.

Gotama - the second pig - built his house with wood. He built the house at a steady pace and sang while he worked. He spent a whole week building the little house. He built the house so that it could easily be repaired. It was a handsome house that would last a long time if it was cared for.   When he was done he danced and sang with Tandita - it was his favorite.


Devadatta was very worried about everything.  What if a monsoon storm came?  What if a flood came?  What if a big bad wolf came to their neighborhood?  “I will make my house the best of all the piggies’ houses” - It will be perfect in every way.

Devadatta worked very hard for two weeks and built his house with bricks.  He would sing his favorite Simon and Garfunkel song - “I am a Rock - I am an Iiiiiiiland”.   The materials were costly and he was so worried about his house being strong that he didn't eat or rest.  Eventually they were all finished building their houses. The piggies sang and danced - it was their favorite.

Interestingly, a big bad wolf named Mara saw the three little pigs dancing and singing and thought, “What a juicy tender meal they will make!” He chased after the three pigs and they ran and hid in their houses.

The big bad wolf went to the house of straw and thought that if he huffed and puffed he could blow the house down. Mara is a pretty special wolf, in fact he is a demon of sorts so he could summon the power of a hurricane to blow the house down.  Naturally - He huffed and puffed and down came the straw house. Just a flattened pile of straw was left, but Tandita had run away.  Saying “run away, run a away, run away….”

The frightened little pig ran past Gotama’s wood house to Devatatta’s brick house. But the big door was locked, so he ran to Gotama’s house where he was welcomed.   Mara - The big bad wolf followed to the brick house. And he huffed and puffed blew a great wind! But the bricks could withstand the wind.  Mara got a little angry and thought about the brick house.

What is a brick house like?  It is Heavy, Solid. Rigid!  So Mara the wolf summoned an earthquake to roll through the neighborhood. The very ground rolled up and down like a big wave, the brick house broke to pieces and when Mara searched the pile of bricks, he did not find piggies Devadatta or Tandita. They had run away.  Saying “run away, run away, run away…” They ran to Gotama’s house where they were welcomed.


Then Mara, the big bad wolf, went to Gotama’s house. He huffed and puffed but the wind blew through the wood house’s boards and the few boards that did come loose Gotama quickly replaced.  Gotama taught Tandita and Devadatta to do the same. Mara the wolf tried again, but eventually ran out of breath. Gotama could fix the house as fast as it got damaged.   It took good mindfulness and awareness of the present moment, but with Devadatta and Tandita’s help he could keep up.

Mara got a little angry and thought about what had worked on the brick house. Earthquake!  Mara the wolf summoned an earthquake to roll through the neighborhood again. The very ground rolled up and down like a big wave, the pile of straw flew up in the air and the pile of brick rubble rumbled a bit.  But the Wood house flexed and swayed as the ground moved and it didn't fall down.   I think it was because Gotama used screws and not nails to build his house [that is a running argument Rev. Matthew used to have with his dad - nails - screws - nails - screws ] - anyway -   Gotama fixed the boards that came lose and the house was ok, just as it was.


He kept trying for hours but the house was very strong and the little pigs were safe inside. He tried and tried and eventually - as is the way with Mara, be became bored with tormenting the piggies and moved on to someone else who needed tormenting.


Through all of this Tandita realized that being lazy was not good. And Devadatta realized that being too rigid and worried all the time was not good. They saw the Gotama’s house was safe because it was able to change, it could flex and move when needed and it was easy to fix up if anything did break. The other two piggies both built wooden houses and they all lived happily ever after.


.



Dharma Talk: Finding Life's Balance - Spring Equinox
20mar16  Rev. Matthew


*** Namandabutsu - Namandabutsu - Namandabutsu ***

Good Morning, I would like to welcome everyone to Reno Buddhist Center on this morning - New visitors and old friends you are all very welcome here.


We celebrate the Equinox today.  A very special day when the Daylight and Nighttime are equal.  This has always been an important time of year for Buddhists. Nature shows us a peaceful balance today.  In the story the piggies examined the two existential extremes of indulgence and perfectionism, but real life lives in between.  Are we like one of these piggies sometimes?  Which one?  Sometimes we are guided to the middle way by seeing the extremes.


Three Little Pigs and the Middle way was a Buddhist adaptation of a story we all know.   We shared it with the children to encourage them to see life as an ongoing series of challenges that we can handle. Sometimes we will get bumps and bruises, but we can handle life.  


In the story the Piggies are building houses.   Constructing an abode. The space we live within.  The Buddha talked about this house building process when he was enlightened...


"Seeking but not finding the house builder,

I hurried through the round of many births:

Painful is birth over and over

O house builder, you have been seen;

You shall not build the house again.

Your rafters have been broken up,

Your ridgepole is demolished too.

My mind has now attained the unformed - I see reality as it is - Nibbâna

And reached the end of every sort of thirst."


Is this house what we construct around us? - our life - do we really construct that?  The causes and conditions that lead to our life are so many, that we can hardly take any credit or authorship for our life. Really what we construct is our way of looking at the world. Our refuge. The protective but permeable bubble we live within everyday.

Who is the house builder the Buddha is speaking to?  The self?  Mara?


When the house builder is seen - it disappears.  Ignorance? The Self. Clining, thirsting, and wanting.   They all swirl around ignorance.  With seeing. With Deep Hearing ignorance melts away.   That is what the Buddha’s enlightenment is all about.


Our friends the piggies build their houses as shelters against the cold and the hot.   We all need refuges at times.  A balance between activity and contemplation is important.


What about the piggies?
We all know the first piggy - Tandita is pretty laid back.  Actually his name means lazy in Pali language.   He finds the minimal amount of work he can get away with and goes right back to his favorite - singing and dancing -  after that.   We have all been this little piggy.   At times -we’ll for me - most times we put in that minimal effort and then move on.  It is strange but we think because we are so “busy” all the time, we think that everything else will fall apart of we devote an appropriate time and effort to our present moment, this activity, or this relationship.   It is quite the opposite.

Tandita’s little house is barely a shelter.  It falls apart so easily.  It lacks a foundation.  It lacks structure. It lacks the discipline of a life well lived.  It looks a lot like a haystack.


The Buddha described three kinds of laziness.
First, there is the kind of laziness that tandita shows: we don't want to do anything, and we'd rather stay in bed than get up and go with the sun.
Second, there is the laziness of thinking we are unworthy or unable, “they have more ability than me”, “other people are kind and generous but I don’t have enough to be generous”. This thinking often has the phrase “I can't” in it.   Lazy thinking doesn't really see life, it just labels and moves on - "I'm just an angry person;" "I've never been able to do things in my life" ; “I'm bound to fail." This laziness is one of Mara’s snares.


The third kind [of Lazy] Buddha describes is being busy with worldly things. How can being busy be a kind of laziness?  We can just overfill fill our time by keeping so super busy. Constantly having many tasks on a list can even make us feel virtuous. But usually it's just an escape.  When feelings and thoughts come up, we are too busy now - we’ll get to it later. We can’t be troubled with  being face-to-face with who we are.  If we fill the cup to the brim there is no room for Right Action, Right Contemplation, there is just the “I’m too busy escape”.


We are all regular people with regular lives.  Our days are very busy, our days can be frantic, it feels like we never have any space to sit for even a minute and just be. That escape is an easy way out. Because if we did take the time and make the effort we would be confronted with real life work.  As Gotama the piggy did - mindfully fixing the boards in his house as they change and needed attention.  Right now.


And the Piggy Devadatta is too strict. Too worried. He’s wound very tight.  He worries and worries.  And his house is very rigid. In his fear he constructs a life that can not accommodate change.   Brick and mortar can’t adapt.  A view of life that is too rigid is destined for trouble.

 

The Piggy Devadatta is full of fears and they drive him to build the brick house.   Ultimately we can see that fear of death is what drives his actions.   This at the expense of life. Building a rigid view seems safest, but it really shows a lack of faith in life.  It is vulnerable to change and lacks flexibility.
When we build a refuge to live within we are at risk when we don't allow for change. Changfulness is the nature of the universe. The downfall of all perfectionists is delusion.  This attitude comes from clinging to the self. The “I-Me-Me-My” experience we talked about last time.  We think that by perfecting the self - by  purifying or honing or training - we will be OK, happy, and joyful.  The Buddha tried that and it almost killed him.  It makes for a very tense and difficult life.


In the sutras Devadatta was a real person - Gotama's cousin. He was often second guessing the Buddha and always pushing for more.   When the Buddha allowed the monks to stay in huts for the rain retreat Devadatta thought that was too easy.  As the Buddha got older Devadatta suggested that he should be the Buddha’s successor.  He would do away with the robes, and begging, and the Dharma halls. The students would live in the forest eating insects.   This is very similar to the extreme asceticism that the Buddha rejected before his enlightenment.  He knew it didn't work. It does not allow us to openly examine life and hear deeply the Wisdom and Compassion of the universe.


Gotama piggy’s wooden house is an example of the middle way.  It is Juuuust right?   It is strong but flexible. The wind can blow through its boards. The roof keeps the rain off. The earthquake shakes it but it moves and gives as the earth wave passes. The wind blows a piece off here or there, but it is easy to repair and return to juuust right in the moment.  It is not perfect but it is juuuust right.  As we follow the Middle Way along the Eightfold Path we are not seeking perfection and we are not seeking escape. We are present in life’s ups and downs. We are able to hear deeply the wisdom and compassion of the universe. We can sit with the silence and simply be grateful - Naturalness is there for us.  We can let go the struggle and striving, the guilt and doubt melt away.   We can be happy in our little house with our little piggy friends.


In the story, the middle way is the way of the wooden house. That’s different than we usually think.  Usually we think the big solid massive unyielding thing is the best.  In a vast ever changing universe, this is a pure delusion.  An externalization of the desire expressed in Devadatta’s favorite song - I am a rock.   The fallacy of strength.


He sings... A winter's day

In a deep and dark December;

I am alone,

Gazing from my window to the streets below

On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow.

I am a rock,

I am an island.


I've built walls,

A fortress deep and mighty,

That none may penetrate.

I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.

It's laughter and it's loving I disdain.

I am a rock,

I am an island.


Don't talk of love,

But I've heard the words before;

It's sleeping in my memory.

I won't disturb the slumber of feelings that have died.

If I never loved I never would have cried.

I am a rock,

I am an island.


I have my books

And my poetry to protect me;

I am shielded in my armor,

Hiding in my room, safe within my womb.

I touch no one and no one touches me.

I am a rock,

I am an island.


And a rock feels no pain;

And an island never cries.

In that song, he desires to avoid pain and brokenheartedness so he builds a fortress. He doesn't want to be hurt, so he shuts out his friends, he'll be isolated in a fortress - a prisoner. Maybe it sounds determined to build a strong house, really sounds like he’s walling himself in.  This isolates him from real life. He is only fooling himself into thinking he can.  It is a just brick delusion of self.


The last two lines express this; he's not a rock, he's a piggy that can be living life.  Life is a bumpy road and it supposed to be. That is natural. It is Ok.  


The "island never cries" line brings home the feeling.  As he sings this, he is really crying out for love.  A rock doesn't feel anything.  An Island can’t be connected.  We do feel, we are connected to everything.  The vast love and compassion and wisdom of the universe is here for us. We are part of it.  And so we live in the middle between indulgence and escape.


We celebrate the Middle Way of the Spring Equinox today - a juuust right balance between daylight and darkness occurs on this day - it is natural.  For Buddhists in particular, this is a significant happening. Dr. Matsunaga would say that it can reminds us of the natural balance of life. We can try to maintain that sense of equanimity every day.


In our Japan this day is the holiday we call Ohigan - which translates as The Other shore...day.   In the  Ala-gadu-pama Sutra the Buddha describes the Dharma as raft - when grasped correctly we cross from this shore [the eastern shore of our Saha world] to the Other Shore the western shore of clarity and understanding and acceptance and gratitude and compassion. The metaphor of the Other Shore is common in Buddhism  - meaning the non-dual state of seeing reality as it is - wonders and warts and all.


The Other Shore is reached by making a new habit of living. Not one of selfish isolation, not a fortress, but an open and giving habit of life.  This is  done by active application of our energy.  By following what we call the six Paramitas.  In Sanskrit ‘paramita’ literally means ‘having reached the other shore.’ It also can mean ‘transcendence,’ or ‘clarity of vision.’  Practicing the paramitas is to practice in accord with selflessness and non-attachment, for the dual benefit of self and others.  

What are these six paramitas that I speak of?

Generosity   Dana Paramita

Ethics    Sila Paramita

Patience   Kshanti Paramita

Joyous Effort Virya Paramita

Concentration Dhyana Paramita

Wisdom   Prajna Paramita

So let’s consider these the six Paramitas with our minds on the activity of the three pigs...

Dāna pāramitā: generosity or selfless giving.  This is the first Paramita, we give what is helpful and good and give without “I-me-me-my” in the mixture.  We talked a lot about this last time.  

Remember there are many ways to be generous: (1) giving material things to support the Dharma (2) giving loving protection, and (3) giving loving understanding.  Participating in the Men’s Group or Women’s group  is a good example. True generosity is giving whatever we possibly can with pure motivation and enthusiasm like when Gotama welcomed the other piggies into his house.   


Śīla pāramitā, the 2nd way to the other shore, is virtue, morality, discipline, good conduct.  We refrain from negative actions. We habituate what is positive, and and we help others.  Gotama the piggy build the wood house and shows the others its strength - Modeling and practicing virtue and aiding others in their development is what Sila Paramita is all about.


Kshanti  pāramitā : is the 3rd way to the other shore - Patience, tolerance, forbearance. Living life with acceptance, endurance [sometimes], and gratitude always.  Two aspects of Kshanti I would mention -

The first, the patience of not being offended when someone hurts us. We patiently understand that the action did not come out of the blue - it’s the result of causes and conditions (karma) created in the past – causes and conditions we all contribute to.  Of course, this is easier said than done!

And, patience in having confidence in the supreme qualities of the Three Treasures.  Confidence arises through taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha and develops through practicing the teachings that we receive.  Buddhism takes time and patience.    Kshanti is a very difficult practice for all of us.


Vīrya pāramitā : The fourth paramita is joyful endeavour Good effort, exertion, and perseverance toward understanding and supporting the Dharma.  The Piggy Gotama had this as he built his wooden house. We earnestly feel that we are beginning anew with every tiny step toward understanding and acceptance.


Dhyāna pāramitā : 5th paramita. One-pointed concentration, contemplation or meditation.  Meditation and deep contemplation can be practiced in many forms: a long, peaceful walk in nature, gardening, chanting and sitting in stillness either alone or with the combined positive energies of others at Golden Light Meditation on Wednesdays. Piggy Gotama focused as he built his wooden house.


And...

Prajñā pāramitā : the 6th paramita.  Wisdom or insight.  Piggy Gotama wisely built his house from wood - to make it easy to repair and flexible in the face of life. Studying the Dharma with curiosity, asking questions, reading Buddhist texts, attending Dharma talks and book discussion group or talking with sangha members are wonderful ways to gain wisdom and insight into reality as it really is.  Ultimately wisdom is seeing clearly.


These are ways for finding the middle way. Being mindful of the Paramitas and naturally practicing them in our daily life is the Buddhist way.   We are so blessed to have been born as human beings in this life.  As humans, we have the ability to Give, behave well, have Patience, expend Joyous Effort, Concentrate deeply, and gain Wisdom.  We will reach the Other Shore. Please remember and practice these six paramitas.


The Noble life is life is a life lived with our struggles not an escape from them.  A joyful life not in spite of difficulty but because of the challenges we face and surmount and endure.   The Middle way is to live life fully, with its struggles and joys - Not too lax, not too constricted.  Remember our piggy friends. And occasionally ask, “Which piggy am I today?”   It is a choice we can make with wisdom.

Our sincere wish for all sentient beings in the universe on this Equinox day. [Just say after me]....

May all beings be happy;
May all beings free from harm:
May all beings receive boundless compassion;
And may peace and harmony fill their heart

--- Namandabu - namandabu - Namandabu ---

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