Moment after moment we have to find our own way.

As long as we have some definite idea about or some hope in the future, we cannot really be serious with the moment that exists right now. You may say, “I can do it tomorrow, or next year,” believing that something that exists today will exist tomorrow. Even though you are not trying so hard, you expect that some promising thing will come, as long as you follow a certain way. But there is no certain way that exists permanently. There is no way set up for us. Moment after moment we have to find our own way. Some idea of perfection, or some perfect way which is set up by someone else, is not the true way for us.

Each one of us must make his own true way, and when we do, that way will express the universal way. This is the mystery. When you understand one thing through and through, you understand everything. When you try to understand everything, you will not understand anything. The best way is to understand yourself, and then you will understand everything. So when you try hard to make your own way, you will help others, and you will be helped by others. Before you make your own way you cannot help anyone, and no one can help you. To be independent in this true sense, we have to forget everything which we have in our mind and discover something quite new and different moment after moment. This is how we live in this world.

Shunryu Suzuki – Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

Our corruption is that we are cut off from the universe

This is Kodo Sawaki, as quoted in Brad Warner’s blog.

People only grow angry because they think of their body as a possession. Yet the Sutras talk about it, all they say is that it is a big bag of stinking skin. When somebody in a rage shouts, “What do you take me for?” or “Who do you think you’re talking to?” I think to myself, “To a big bag of stinking skin.”

Human beings tear each other apart because of their opinions, politicians tear each other apart, husband and wife tear each other apart. The whole world is full of tearing. Why? Just because of the vanity of our egos.

Even monks and nuns and priests tear each other apart. Is there life after death? Is the soul eternal or not? All of that is nothing but trivial jokes, ego stories. If we stop paying attention to the ego, such nonsense as eternity or not eternity ceases to exist, for the soul.

This degenerate world is the reason why professional liars succeed today. But if we observe impermanence, there were no more lies, and where there are no more lies religion appears.

You can see your image in the mirror, but how do you see the mind that not even a mirror can reflect? It’s possible in zazen. Nothing reveals the ego like zazen. The purer the zazen, the more transparent, the better you can see the illusions of your ego.

Our corruption is that we are cut off from the universe, and our illusion is that we confuse the cut-off ego with the one that, originally, is not separate from the cosmic system. The roots of that true ego are the same as those of sky and earth, the same body and same mind as all sentient beings.

This is true religion, which has no right side or wrong side, no inside or outside, is transparent from sky to earth, is the secret of Zen. Everything must become completely transparent, me and you, past and present and future. In terms of reality this means that our life today, our attitude now, gives life to the past.

If our attitude is false and then all those who have fed us and taught us, all those we have met and known, have acted solely in order to produce that falseness. If our attitude is right, whatever they have done they did solely in order to produce that rightness. The limits of the Self are truly beyond any imagining, and fill the sky, earth, and the whole universe.

In terms of religious faith, space and time and have nothing to do with it. It is only right now that we can use this ordinary human body to practice zazen with Shakyamuni, with the Buddhas of the whole universe in ten directions, practice zazen with the mountains, rivers, and trees. That’s why I practice zazen.

Sitting like this is what makes up the self become transparent, makes us able to see without any limits, in harmony with sky and earth, and it is what gives the self a total vision of the whole universe. That is the way of silent sitting and the principle of shikantaza.

Digital Thanka

I saw this image one day in a vision whilst meditating – a giant Amitabha Buddha in a city, with a huge cosmos behind, so I thought i’d mock it up. Turned out well.

Amida Buddha

Richard Baker’s eulogy for Alan Watts

The culmination of the ceremony was the eulogy by Richard Baker. Using the dharma names he’d given Watts and holding Watts’ jangling staff, which he’d inherited from Suzuki, he spoke:

“Alan, Daiyuin Yuzan Myoko, Daizen Jomon, here is your lineage from Buddha through the Buddhas and Patriachs to you. Alan Watts was a philosopher, a poet, a calligrapher, a lover, a friend, a dharma reveller, a revealer, a great founder of the spirit for all of us.

He was the true emptiness of all things. He taught us to be free. To see through the multiplicities and absurdities to the Great Universal Personality and Play. He gave us the Dharma Eye of a new age. Our blessings go with you now.

Wide Mind, Joyous Mind, Careful Loving Mind. For the true life is beyond life and death, origination, and extinction. We are with you in the many paths you opened for us. HOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Go! Go! Great Hermit! Great Founder!”

From David Chadwick in the latest issue of Shambhala Sun.

See also: Alan Watts and Trungpa Rinpoche and Suzuki Roshi on Alan Watts.

insignificance is liberating.

I understand that people, melodramatically, may consider life something one has to survive. But you’re alive, that’s what life is, you are surviving. It plays into this idea that people’s lives are narratives – that it’s a film or book and you have to survive all this craziness. I think it’s a disservice, ultimately, because it makes others feel like their lives aren’t crazy enough. In my mind, life is not a war – although human beings create conditions that make it feel that way – and I think that navigation is a fairer term. I see life essentially as an empty field.

This recent Ian Mackaye interview speaks so much to me I don’t know where to begin quoting. It’s wall to wall wisdom. It has the feeling of a Dharma talk – much of what Ian says vibes with my own thoughts as influenced by Buddhism.

We only wake up for a limited number of days. Although, ironically, I would say life is eternal, because I don’t think there’s any comprehension before or after it. So, if all we know is this, then it’s eternal.

He touches on success, life and technology…. Very much worth your time reading.

The Dude Milarepa

Milarepa

Some friends and I were studying some texts, contemplating interdependence and we came across this song by Milarepa:

“Here on Künsal Rinchen Drak, the precious peak where all is clear,
I remember appearances are examples of impermanence.
I see sense pleasures as a mirage, this life like a dream and an illusion,
And I cultivate compassion for all who do not know this.
I eat the food of empty space, I meditate without distraction,
I have different experiences, just about anything can happen!
E ma, the phenomena of the three realms of samsara,
While not existing, they appear, how incredibly amazing!”

This is beautiful. Milarepa, delighting in the appearances of samsara, cultivating compassion for the rest of us.

For some reason, I thought of the end of The Big Lebowski

“The Dude abides. I don’t know about you but I take comfort in that. It’s good knowin’ he’s out there. The Dude. Takin’ ‘er easy for all us sinners.”

Why Not Today?

I was walking to work today listening to Rage Against The Machine on my headphones and at the exact moment in “Guerrilla Radio” where Zack says “What better place than here? What better time than now?” I walked past a woman wearing a t-shirt that read “Why Not Today?”. :)

It is now two weeks since I made a formal decision to not eat meat. Since I made that choice a big weight seems to have lifted off my shoulders. I’m not interested in making a case for not eating meat here, but I want to talk about making decisions.

Going “vegetarian” was something I was considering for a long time, and it had increasingly become a source of stress for me. When it came time to eat I would think a lot about it, feeling guilty about possibly eating meat, then stressing out about it. Then a few weeks ago, a single image struck me, and I made a ‘now-or-never’ choice. Since I’ve made that choice, there is no stress. There might be decisions about what I can eat etc., but what I should eat no longer bothers me. If I get annoyed by lack of food options somewhere, at least I am not being made anxious by my own indecision.

It has occurred to me that this is something I should investigate more. Doug was writing recently about conduct and Buddhist practice and touched on this. One of his bits of advice was:

If unsure, just don’t do it.

I think this mirrors how I made my decision about eating meat. If I was doubting the ethical ramifications of my actions, it’s simply best to not engage in that action. I also agree with Doug when he encourages disciple, which reminded me of the Leo Tolstoy essay which also inspired my decision:

In order to be moral people must cease to eat meat? Not at all.

I only wish to say that for a good life a certain order of good actions is indispensable; that if a man’s aspirations toward right living be serious they will inevitably follow one definite sequence; and that in this sequence the first virtue a man will strive after will be self-control, self-restraint.

I fell that beyond just living in a way I feel to be right, the effort of practising some kind of self-restraint and disciple is helpful.

I’m of course not suggesting that it is easy to just stop engaging in any activity that is causing you anxiety. We all struggle with these things. But what I do think that if it is something that is relatively not difficult, but that it is still causing you grief and you want to give it up….why not today? It was save you anxiety and guilt over it. You might fail, but then you can start again. But you have to start.

Alan Watts and Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

If you’ve read any of my blog you will be aware of my love of the work of Alan Watts, who has been one of the most influential people on my own philosophy and outlook. Interestingly, Alan moved in the same circles as two other teachers who have informed my thinking greatly, Shunryu Suzuki Roshi and Chogyam Trunpa Rinpoche. I’ve outlined before some of the relationship between Suzuki Roshi and Alan, and David Chadwick’s biography of Suzuki Roshi details it much more. In particular, it brought to light Alan’s relationship with Suzuki in Roshi’s final days before his death.

It was interesting then to learn, that apparently Alan spent his last day and night with Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

Trungpa Rinpoche was a highly influential and revered Tibetan Buddhist lama who came to the West after fleeing the Chinese invasion in 1959. Like Suzuki and Watts he was instrumental in spreading the dharma in the West by helping explain it in ways young Westerners could understand. All three ended up in the United States in the last 60s/early 70s having journeyed from Japan, England and Tibet. And Trungpa, like Alan, was not only a great teacher, but also enjoyed sensual delights, specifically alcohol and women.

Chronicles Radio have a short podcast where they claim that Alan spent his last night alive in the company of Trungpa Rinpoche. Apparently, Watts was one of Rinpoche’s “literary heroes” and he loved reading him. When Trungpa came to America from Britain he was keen to meet Alan. They had their first meeting on Alan’s houseboat where they spent the night drinking and talking.

Afterwards Trungpa remarked that he was “disappointed”, as he was surprised at Alan’s lack of depth about practice. (Alan was definitely a brilliant speaker and ‘translator’ of Eastern ideas but was sometimes criticised for his lack of formal commitment to set practises, particularly meditation). But Trungpa was still keen to meet with Alan and they continued a friendship.

Later, whilst Trungpa Rinpoche was holding his Vajryana Seminary, he went to San Francisco to see Alan, and they spent a day and night together, talking and drinking. Alan went home and passed away in his sleep the next morning.

In an odd footnote, afterwards Trungpa became concerned about Alan, worried that he had become stuck as a ghost at the foot of Mt. Tamalpais where he had a study and library. Rinpoche took some students to his library and told them that Alan was “stuck with his books and his office and couldn’t let go”. He wandered about until he found a spot in the field outside where he though Alan was. He instructed his students that they were going to help Alan by exorcising his ghost. They performed the supplication to the Kagyu gurus and the Heart Sutra. After which Trungpa said “That’s it” and he was happy.

It’s fascinating to note the role these three men had in each others lives, and in each other’s final days. Trungpa himself died years later, in 1987, like Alan with conditions related to excessive drinking.

Chronicles Radio also details Trungpa’s meeting with Suzuki Roshi.

“Your real action right here and now creates the Universe.”

I’m thinking a lot again about the effects of my conduct online. I use Twitter and often find myself firing off jokes at the expense of a politician or public figure for cheap laughs. I don’t think about it too much. But it’s occurring to me that this thoughtlessness can cause harm. My propensity for mischief is in a daily battle with my attempt to develop compassion for all sentient beings.

Brad Warner has published a blog post about the Bodhisattva Vow which drives right to the heart of this matter:

When we, ourselves, become calmer, more rational, more centered, everything we do naturally becomes a fulfillment of the Bodhisattva Vow. When we make efforts to center ourselves, the rest of the world participates in that effort. It sounds weird, I know. But it happens to be true. The real fulfillment of the Bodhisattva Vow rarely manifests itself in big, sweeping acts of heroic service to all mankind. It’s usually something very small.

Smiling at your boss even though he is a smug, self-serving royal pain in the ass is the fulfillment of the Bodhisattva Vow. Shutting up when you spontaneously think of the perfect sarcastic come-back to a rude clerk at the DMV is the fulfillment of the Bodhisattva Vow. Putting the toilet seat down after you’re done so your sister won’t fall in is the fulfillment of the Bodhisattva Vow. Staying behind and watcing some of the set by the band who lent you their stuff is the fulfillment of the Bodhisattva Vow.

Your real day-to-day, minute-to-minute activity right here and right now has immeasurable impact upon the entire Universe. Your real action right here and now creates the Universe.

One of the most helpful statements here is:

Shutting up when you spontaneously think of the perfect sarcastic come-back to a rude clerk at the DMV is the fulfillment of the Bodhisattva Vow.

As Brad says, the real fulfillment of the Vow is in the thousands of tiny acts that can be performed daily. An many of these actions can be non-actions. Instead of saying that thing, don’t say it. How important is it to be said? And if it has to be said are you saying it in the most skilful way? As Mike Monteiro put it, Have I improved the silence?

Your real day-to-day, minute-to-minute activity right here and right now has immeasurable impact upon the entire Universe. Your real action right here and now creates the Universe.