April 2011 Archives

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I have a confession to make: I don't believe in Buddha. 

It may be shocking for a Buddhist priest to say so, as shocking as hearing a Catholic priest say he "doesn't believe in Jesus". But it's true nonetheless. I am a Buddhist priest who thinks "Buddha" is largely bunk and baloney. 

At least, I think there's a lot of "bull" to how Buddha is typically portrayed. I think many of the utterly fantastic Mahayana Sutra stories of Buddhas are ridiculous ... hyper-exaggerated ...just unbelievable! (meaning that they cannot be literally believed any more than children's fairy tales). The imagery is incredibly beautiful ... but the tale just incredible nonsense, purely the product of human imagination. I think the image of a "Perfect Buddha" ... either in this world or some Buddha Land ... as a flawless being beyond all human weakness, conflict and ignorance ... is a fable, a religious myth. I think most of the old miracle filled stories are well meaning fictions, sometimes holy lies, and the golden statues and paintings of Buddhas are but depictions of exaggerated dreams

Oh, I believe that there was a man who lived whom we now call "the Buddha", but I think what happened over the centuries' is his victimhood to a process of hagiography. A Buddha or Ancestor dies (same for Jesus, saints and holy men in other religions) and ... century by century ... those in the religion (looking from afar at what the attainments actually were on the part of their "religious icon" and with need to depict the top value of the religion) go over the top, start to imagine, fantasize and exaggerate the wonderful nature of the teacher and teaching into something super-human. A flesh and blood teacher who was merely "Great, Profound and Wonderful"must unfortunately becomes someone "Magical, Miraculous and Mythical" ... all to the point of Malarky. The worshipful dip the man in gold, remove all human qualities and gradually turn their hero into a statue, a super-hero. As a result, "Buddha" is no more real than "Beowulf" or "Batman". 

However ... my doubts about make believe "Buddhas" are not important to my Buddhist practice in the least

As well, although I do not believe in imaginary Buddhas ... I believe in Buddhas. 

Better said, I know Buddha for a fact! 

How? What? Let me explain. 

I believe in ... I KNOW ... Buddha in many ways, each Real as Real can be

One way is to see that such Buddhas (Bodhisattvas too) exist as a paradigm, an ideal, a goal representing the best of the human condition to which men and women can aspire. As I said in a talk last week on Kannon, the symbol of Compassion: It does not matter that she "may not be really real", for we make Kannon "really real" in life:


I had a hard time, for many years, incorporating into my practice many figures such as Kannon and Jizo ...

I have come to see "them" as archtypes, representing real characteristics of human life and (since we are just the universe) thus the universe. 

In other words: When we feel in our hearts and act upon Love and Compassion, thereby Love and Compassion exist as real, concrete aspects of the world which our hearts and acts create. There is no "inside" or "outside" ultimately, thus what is inside you is just as much "the universe" and concrete reality as the moon, gravity and the stars. That is "Kannon", in that way a real and concrete aspect and 'force' of the world. Her 1000 helping hands are our hands, and our actions make her real in the world. 



As with Bodhisattvas, so it is with the Buddha, all the Buddhas. Wisdom and Compassion realized in each of us is the realization (meaning both "the discovery" and "the making real") of Buddha in the world. We make Buddha real, Kannon and the other Bodhisattvas too. (Mara and the Devil too if we act badly). 

Next, I believe in the Buddha when I prove the worth of the Buddha's Teachings in my own life. The proof here is right in life's pudding. The Teachings are the Truth of Buddha that we can each verify in our lives. The Heart of the Buddha's teachings ... the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, Non-Self, Non-Attachment, Dependent Origination, the Middle Way, so much more, ... are all here now and can be known to all of us ... worth the whole ticket of admission! 

What's more, I recognize that the fantastic stories, the idealized images of Buddhas ... even the most incredible allegories and hallucinatory images of the Mahayana Sutras ... are merely attempts to convey these wondrous Truths and Teachings, to show their power. Even if I do not take the Sutra stories literally, I can dig what they are trying to say behind the wild way they do it. In that way, even the most bizarre image found in some Sutra tale is True if the Teaching it attempts to convey is True. 

And ultimately, although I do not believe at all in so-called "Awakened Buddhas who have mastered the Dharma 100% and are Perfect Beings beyond all human flaws" ... I believe through and through in "Awakened Buddhas who have mastered the Dharma 100% and are Perfect Beings beyond all human flaws".

Huh? Sounds like a contradiction there? Sounds like I am speaking out of both sides of my no sided mouth? Well, get over it. This Buddhist Way allows for countless "contradictions" held in total harmony

You see, I believe in Buddhas who are Perfectly Buddha, Perfectly Reality ... beyond small human concepts of the "pure" and "impure", fully manifesting and enlivening the Dance of Emptiness. That is a kind of Purity and Perfection when there is dropped all human judgments of the stained vs. the pure. I believe in Buddhas who are always moral, never breaking a Precept... for there is no Precept that can ever be broken, nothing to steal or do violence to, and no separate 'other' to take or injure in any way. Yes, Virginia, there is a Buddha beyond all thought of lack or flaw! In fact, in the realm of Real Buddha, even small minded judgments of "real" and "unreal" cleanly drop away. 

And when we couple this Great Buddha with the Buddhas we make real in our lives ... by manifesting Wisdom and Compassion in our thoughts, words and acts ... we have a way to manifest that Perfect Buddha right here in the Saha world. We do our best in this life to live Compassionately by the Precepts avoiding harm. We fill ourselves with Prajna Wisdom, seeing this world for the 'dream within a dream' it truly is. At the moment, Buddha and all the Great Bodhisattvas are also real as real can be, walking the earth. 

The extreme and exaggerated stories of Buddhas' powers are but a mental mirror reflection of human imperfections, extrapolated to the ultimate by men based on seeing what men are now not. These images are themselves just 'Made in Samsara'. Paintings of 'Nirvana' are themselves imperfect goods of Samsara! Yet, there is Nirvana, this Perfection swallowing all small human mirages of perfection and imperfection ... and such is Buddha!

Thus, Buddhas are but fables and lies, Buddhas are human aspirations, Buddhas are True Teachings, Buddhas are Whole and Complete beyond "full" or "lack", Buddhas live and breathe in the world when we live and breath like Buddhas. 


The Buddhist Path is Real



Liberation is Real



Buddha is Real 



Today's Sit-A-Long video follows at this link. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 15 to 35 minutes is recommended.


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ImageTaigen Dan Leighton writes, in his wonderful book Faces of Compassion: Classic Bodhisattva Archetypes and their Modern Expression ...

One meaning of Avalokiteshvara's name is "Regarder of the World's Cries or Sounds," indicated in the Japanese name Kanzeon. A shortened form of this is Kannon (or the Chinese Guanyin), "Hearing or Regarding Sounds." Avalokiteshvara is the one who calmly hears and considers all of the world's sounds of woe. This name implies that empathy and active listening are primary practices of compassion. Just to be present, to remain upright and aware in the face of suffering without needing to react reflexively, is compassion. Kanzeon acknowledges beings and their cries, and responds when appropriate or when it would be useful ... Considering all the many manifestations encompassed by Avalokiteshvara, however, we might also remember to carefully regard our own cries, the suffering of all the beings included within us. We cannot offer compassion to others if we cannot be compassionate, accepting, and forgiving of ourselves. We can hear and acknowledge our own feelings of fear, frustration, and anger with calm uprightness, rather than needing to react externally and act them out inappropriately.


I feel this is a wonderful reminder that we should offer Compassion and Loving Kindness to this Sentient Being, you and me, even as we reach out to help all Sentient Beings and the world (we are sentient beings in this world too!). 

Kannon is often depicted with 1000 arms and eyes, seeing and reaching out toward suffering wherever it manifests. Truly, those hands and eyes are our hands and eyes. 


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Hi,

Some people wrote to me to inquire as to the current status of Soto-shu relief efforts and fundraising in Japan. I responded that I wish Soto-shu, via the North America office, would communicate that to us in North America, both teachers and Sangha member donors. Absent that, I can only look at the Soto-shu web pages and write to the Shumucho (head office of Soto-shu in Japan) for information. Further, I know that many many individual priests and temples here and there in Japan (and elsewhere) are making a big effort for relief. 

The English (and other foreign languages) Soto-shu web page is very unclear to anyone making a donation. It now contains a tangled flow chart of fundraising that merely indicates that the money will be used for the "Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund", and the following two statements:

_________________________

The Sotoshu Shumucho is now collecting contributions for the "Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund".
This relief fund will be used to help the victims of the disaster, and to help rebuild the areas struck.

http://global.sotozen-net.or.jp/eng/news/relief_fund.html
____________________________

There is no indication there at all (or anywhere else on the foreign language pages) that 30% of the money is being used for temple relief. While it is true that temples and priests in the Tohoku area are also "victims of the disaster", I believe that the image of people making such a donation based on that language would be that they are donating to the Tsunami victims now in shelters and homeless, and others outside Soto-shu who suffered, not temple rebuilding or for Soto-shu to keep the money for Soto-shu. Of course, while it is perfectly fine for someone to donate to temple relief if they wish to and are fully informed (apart from the question of whether now is the time for such fundraising when there are so many other needy people in the area), it is unclear to me why the page would not explain that such a large part of the money is being diverted for such purposes.  

The Japanese pages are only a little better. The main Japanese fundraising page now says ...

振込用紙の通信欄には「東日本大震災」とご記入のうえ、寺院救援義援金または、一般救援義援金の内訳が分かるようお書きください。記入がない場合は寺院救援義援金扱いとさせていただきます。

http://www.sotozen-net.or.jp/category/teqw

I believe this language was added April 7th due to criticism (not just by me but, I understand, within some quarters in Japan as well) that the use of the money is unclear. However, the new description is also a bit strange. It says that donors can now mark their donations as either for "Relief funds for Temples" or as "Relief funds for General Use". It then says "However, if not marked, we will use them as Relief funds for Temples". If so, that leads me to wonder, how much is coming in "unmarked", and why the unmarked money goes for "temple relief" only (it seems) and not for "general relief". 

There is also a note dated 4/21 that  10,000,000 Yen (about $121,000) is being given to the Shanti Volunteer Association, a non-profit organization loosely affiliated with Soto-shu that seems to be trying to do some good work in the area. It looks like Shanti is making some very sincere efforts. 

http://sva.or.jp/global/japan_earthquake/

However, there is no explanation on the page about how much was raised in total, how much was kept for temple buildings, how much was donated to the Japan Red Cross (which was, I thought, to be the advertised recipient of 70% of the funds) and how much was used for any other purposes or recipients. 

I did write to Rev. Shundo Kushida of the Soto-Shu International Division (cc. Daigaku Rumme of the North America office) to ask for clarification on these matters, and to why donations which are not marked are being all diverted to "Relief funds for temples" and not "general relief". He responded by telephone to me, and seems like a nice young fellow. If I understood the gist of his statements to me, he said that he thought the English and foreign language pages were clear enough. He also said that he thought Japanese people donating to the Soto-shu would be clear that the money might be used for Soto-shu temples, so did not need further clarification. I was left with the impression that the formula advertised here for fundraising as "30% for temples, 70% to be re-donated to the Japan Red Cross" was not actually a fixed formula, and that they were deciding the uses of the money (to Shanti and the like) without being bound by that statement. He did not provide any information on the total amount raised or the amount of that used for temple relief. 

I strongly suggested to Rev. Kushida that I am the wrong person to have to ask these questions, and that Soto-shu, and the North America office of Soto-shu, should itself make a little better effort to communicate these facts to Soto affiliated teachers and Sangha in North America, and to donors here.. Rev. Kushida (if I understood correctly) then said that he has no way to send a message or communicate the same apart from the Soto-shu web pages (already clear enough in his view), which I insisted is not the case. 

It would be nice to hear more stories too of Soto affiliated priests in Japan and the efforts they are making. I know that there are very many out giving their all. 

Gassho, Jundo

SIT-A-LONG with Taigu: Baike 2

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Dogen writes: "This old plum tree is boundless. All at once its blossoms open and of itself the fruit is born".

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Buddhas reflecting Buddhas, Bodhisattvas within Bodhisattvas, in multitudinous worlds containing myriad atoms in all directions ... each riffing on Samantabhadra, manifesting Buddhas reflecting Buddhas, Bodhisattvas within Bodhisattvas, in multitudinous worlds containing myriad atoms in all directions ... each riffing on Samantabhadra, manifesting Buddhas reflecting Buddhas, Bodhisattvas within Bodhisattvas, in multitudinous worlds containing myriad atoms in all directions ... each riffing on Samantabhadra, manifesting Buddhas reflecting Buddhas, Bodhisattvas within Bodhisattvas, in multitudinous worlds containing myriad atoms in all directions... each riffing on Samantabhadra, manifesting Buddhas reflecting Buddhas, Bodhisattvas within Bodhisattvas, in multitudinous worlds containing myriad atoms in all directions... each riffing on Samantabhadra, manifesting Buddhas reflecting Buddhas, Bodhisattvas within Bodhisattvas, in multitudinous worlds containing myriad atoms in all directions... each riffing on Samantabhadra, manifesting Buddhas reflecting Buddhas, Bodhisattvas within Bodhisattvas, in multitudinous worlds containing myriad atoms in all directions... each riffing on Samantabhadra, manifesting Buddhas reflecting Buddhas, Bodhisattvas within Bodhisattvas, in multitudinous worlds containing myriad atoms in all directions ... each riffing on Samantabhadra ...


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Image April 8th marks VESAK, HANAMATSURI, BUDDHA'S BIRTHDAY, in Japan (other days in various places in Asia) ... 



... Please join us in celebration of this simple time of birth and rebirth.



Truly, each moment of each moment is the moment of Buddha's Birth.



Today's Sit-A-Long video follows at this link. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 15 to 35 minutes is recommended.



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Yes, baby, can you divide the reality of one thing happening? Can you cut the sound in half? More than that, with a single blossom, all blossoms. The whole reality is captured in a single unfolding. From star to bin, all is said and expressed. Check this.

gassho


Taigu

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I have a BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG BIG announcement to make:


Let's extend a warm welcome to ...

DENNIS 'GENPO' MERZEL ROSHI 

as our

NEW ABBOT OF TREELEAF SANGHA!!! 


(and GOODBYE TAIGU!! You broke Jundo's heart ... :cry: )

NOTICE: NEW SANGHA FEES EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY! 


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