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Thread: Thoughts on Engaged Practice

  1. #1
    Treeleaf Unsui Yugen's Avatar
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    Thoughts on Engaged Practice

    I've had an opportunity to reflect a bit on my own engaged practice and Global Day of Service activities. In the course of doing so, as we enter the New Year, I started rereading Uchiyama's Opening the Hand of Thought - this is my third time through, and it is like rediscovering an old and new friend at the same time. Reading the book has helped frame my thoughts, and I thought I'd share my observations with you.

    One of the objectives we had as a group in designing the Global Day of Service was the hope and expectation that periodic commitments of service to others and/or in the community would gradually blend seamlessly into practice - i.e., that the boundary between the two-week service periods and the "rest of the year" would melt. I've certainly had to commit myself to periods of service to others, often "holding my nose" in the process. Giving an hour (much less a full day) to a food bank was a big deal for me, with my 'busy and important life.' In my practice of Buddhism, I have struggled with the relationship of my small (competitive) self to my large (universal) self.... and still do. The boundaries between self and other seem to be natural terrain features of our personalities.... but so are the seeds of universal, or original self. For me, these seeds lay (very) dormant for a long time.

    Uchiyama has helped me frame a couple of observations. As my Zen practice has progressed, I no longer look to my teacher as a "father" figure, or someone who is going to tell me what to do, or give me something to lean on. I have discovered instead the notion that teachers are all around us, and that we practice with "good friends" who help us along the way. We learn from one another, and as Uchiyama's student, Shohaku Okumura observed, Uchiyama

    ...said that he never faces his disciples: he faces the Buddha and walks in that direction as his own practice. And if I want to practice with him as his disciple, I should also face the Buddha and go in the same direction with my own feet.

    Big revelation for me who always saw priests as authoritarian figures - taking responsibility for my own practice. The notion of a good friend sharing the path, its ups and downs, is exhilarating and scary... sometimes we go "off the grid" existentially. That's where groundlessness comes in. So far so good. I still fall into the trap of thinking my practice is better than so-and-so's practice, etc. So the ego still rears its ugly head, more than I care to admit.

    Three years after taking the precepts, I am only beginning to understand the vow I have taken to save all sentient beings. It's one of these mission impossible type directives: we could never possibly save all beings. But Uchiyama helped me out with this too...

    As Buddhists, this is our vow or life direction. We vow to save all sentient beings so that this self may become even more itself. This is the direction we continuously face.

    So in our practice, there is a transformation in the direction we face, from facing the Buddha, to facing ourselves and others - all sentient beings. Well, I faced the Buddha because I needed something to focus on, before I realized there was nothing to face but ourselves.... soon the boundaries between ourselves and others dissolve (they were never there but our minds made it so)... and indeed in facing the Buddha we face all beings. In committing myself to service I am no longer serving others but taking care of life itself... of the universal life force, and that in turn is caring for myself. Service is no longer something I view as separate from my existence, or small self. It is a barometer of the extent to which I am living my vows. When I care for others I am caring for myself. The satisfaction and contentment I have gained from this journey far exceeds any pleasure I derived from a big salary, new car, or big house (and I have none of these any longer). I do however, take my place in the stream of life as it is. No more and no less. What a gift.

    And I come back to Uchiyama:

    Only when you thoroughly understand this will everything in the world settle as the self pervading all things. As Buddhists, this is our vow or life direction.

    I don't pretend to even thoroughly understand just a little bit. But I have had a glance.

    Yugen
    Last edited by Yugen; 01-08-2013 at 11:52 PM.
    Please take all my comments with a grain of salt - I am a novice priest and anything I say is to be taken with a good dose of skepticism - Shodo Yugen

  2. #2
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Yugen,

    Indeed, when we help, serve and do good, we are serving life. And there is great joy in that.

    When we work and help others, we vanish and become life cultivating life and metta. In turn, we get a better world to live in.

    Thank you for this beautiful beautiful reminder of what practice and service are.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Shuso and Ango leader for September 2014.

    Please remember I am only a priest in training. I could be wrong in everything I say. Slap me if needed.

    The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. Mr. Spock

  3. #3
    Treeleaf Unsui rculver's Avatar
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    _/\_


    Shugen
    As a priest in training, please take everything I say with a pinch of salt

    Meido Shugen
    明道 修眼

  4. #4
    Senior Member Nindo's Avatar
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    Thanks for your honest thought.
    Deep bows.
    --- In every moment of our sitting all beings are receiving the ultimate help; they are all achieving perfect peace and perfect rest. --- Norman Fischer

  5. #5
    Thank you Yugen,

    These truly are timely reminders and personally, this really hit home.

    When reading your post I found myself reflecting on my own life and how might I be more compassionate toward others.
    Unfortunately, sometimes its easy to become so wrapped up in our own personal dilemmas we forget there's a world of suffering around us.

    This is something that attracted me to Buddhism, it teaches compassion toward all sentient beings.
    May I show compassion toward all sentient beings...

    Once again thank you for such an important post.
    Gracias


    Gassho
    Mike

  6. #6
    Thank you Yugen.

    Gassho
    Michael
    倫道 真現

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  7. #7
    Thank you Yugen for sharing your thoughts with us.
    Gassho,
    Andy

  8. #8
    Senior Member KellyRok's Avatar
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    Yours is a wonderful post and a hard look in the mirror. Thank you for sharing with us.

    Gassho,
    Kelly/Jinmei

  9. #9
    Wonderful, Yugen.

    Gassho, Jundo
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  10. #10
    Senior Member Koshin's Avatar
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    Thank you

    Gassho
    ______________________________
    Kōshin / Leo



    P.S. Yup, I know, my English sucks

  11. #11
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Thank you for your glance Yugen...it was very illuminating and inspiring.

    Gassho,
    Dosho
    Shudo Dosho - Ordained Priest-in-Training
    With your help and guidance from Jundo & Taigu
    I am learning, but please take what I say with a
    grain of salt, especially in matters of the Dharma.

  12. #12
    Thank you Yugen - greatly appreciated!

    Gassho
    Shohei

  13. #13
    Gassho Yugen
    thank you
    Myoku

  14. #14
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Gassho Yugen, I'm on my second read with Uchiyama's "Opening the Hand of Thought". If I can realize only a fraction of what you display I will consider myself fortunate.
    Thank You
    gassho, Shokai, still learning the way and knowing nothing
    仁道 生開 - Jindo Shokai "Open to life in a benevolent way"
    Just another itinerant monk; go somewhere else to listen to someone who really knows.

  15. #15
    Treeleaf Unsui Yugen's Avatar
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    Shokai,
    Thank you for your kind words - the thing I am fortunate in is that we learn from one another, and practice together. I have learned much from your wisdom, and reflections.

    To paraphrase Soko Morinaga (because I am not clever enough to come up with my own catchphrases) - it is enough for me if I can only be mindful of the extent of my own stupidity.

    Deep bows
    Yugen
    Please take all my comments with a grain of salt - I am a novice priest and anything I say is to be taken with a good dose of skepticism - Shodo Yugen

  16. #16
    Gassho
    Neika / Ian Adams

    寧 Nei - Peaceful/Courteous
    火 Ka - Fire

    Look for Buddha outside your own mind, and Buddha becomes the devil. --Dogen

  17. #17
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Thanks Yugen but, I can't imagine ever reaching to the extent of my stupidity. Much like science has now concluded about the universe, I believe it to be infinite

    nine bows and gassho, Shokai
    gassho, Shokai, still learning the way and knowing nothing
    仁道 生開 - Jindo Shokai "Open to life in a benevolent way"
    Just another itinerant monk; go somewhere else to listen to someone who really knows.

  18. #18
    Thank you Yugen.

    Whenever I have served the big self, it has only been serving the little self in transcendental drag...but it is better than mean self-serving. The quality of the vows have changed a lot. They mean something different now...they mean more, but are less noble maybe... because I am less noble ( not to say others can't be).. less noble but more ready to get out there and mix it up. It is more like seeing a spill on the kitchen floor, and cleaning it up.. because someone has to do it. I think that's it for me.. someone has to do it.

    Gassho and much respect, Daizan.
    大山

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