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Living Zen

 
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Terri R.
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Joined: 21 Apr 2004
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Location: So. Calif.

PostPosted: Sat Feb 26, 2005 8:38 p    Post subject: Living Zen Reply with quote

What is Zen? Over the years Zen has come to mean many different things, yet has great appeal to those who are seeking calmness, deep tranquility, and balance in their lives.

During the next few weeks, I will be posting in this thread various ways for you to develop your own appreciation of Zen that will allow you to focus on key areas in your life. I will, however, not be including the history of Zen... I'll leave that up to you to research. You may want to begin your research by looking into the lives of the most revered masters: Hui-neng (Zen entered its golden age in China), and Lin-ji (founded one of the main lineages and styles still in use today).

You will also want to learn more about different meditation techniques so that you will be able to free your mind to explore beyond our everyday world. There's a post on this forum (from Bobin) about zazen (sitting meditation/Zen), and I will include a brief intro to kinhin (walking meditation). We'll also cover a little bit about koans (question and answer dialogues that took place between Zen masters and their students).

Hopefully, this thread will be educational, but more so, inspirational.

According to the Buddha's teachings, there are three interconnected characteristics of life in general: suffering, impermanence, and the absence of an ego-self. The idea that our existence is pervaded by suffering, misery, and frustration may seem far-fetched to many of us as we are surrounded by modern day comforts and conveniences... things our ancestors could not have imagined were possible. For all intent and purposes, our lives are pretty darn comfy-cozy. Well... just don't turn on the evening news, or read the daily newspapers. Otherwise, you will see that we are indeed awash in a sea of misery. And it's not just suffering and strife of those living in some third world country.... somewhere.... "over there." At present, more than 80% of people IN THE WORLD live in acute poverty, in substandard housing, and remain uneducated. Fifty percent suffer from malnutrition. If you're reading this post, and if you have food, clothing, health and an education, count yourself as one of the lucky and privileged few.

So if we are so darn lucky, or fortunate, then why is it that we still experience emotional unhappiness, or feel a sense of emptiness, boredom, loneliness, and insecurity? What is at the root of our unhappiness?


Terri
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Terri R.
Site Admin


Joined: 21 Apr 2004
Posts: 441
Location: So. Calif.

PostPosted: Sat Feb 26, 2005 8:40 p    Post subject: Reply with quote

(this thread is being recreated as it was lost during the server crash.)

ORIGINAL POST BY CATHI:

>>The idea that our existence is pervaded by suffering, misery, and frustration may seem far-fetched to many of us ... <<

This concept is not so far fetched to me in spite of any modern day comforts and conveniences I may have. I know that it is because I am often snatched back to being "OF" this world as I go through daily struggles of keeping my modern conveniences and creature comforts (even though I KNOW nothing is permanent I still like having them and try not to lose anything more) ... dealing with things that are happening to my family ... struggling with my own ego because things aren't going the way I would like them to go, or I think would be the best way ... both in my home and in the world in general.

Sometimes it is hard for me to remember that everyone has their own journey to go through, or to see the lessons. It is in those times that I feel "lonely, empty, insecure." It is in those moments that I feel disconnected to my Source, which is at the core of those feelings, and I know it is in that feeling of seperateness that I attract those other feelings. And the circle goes on and on....think...feel...attract.

"To be in this world but not of this world" ... the concept is so easy to understand, but maintaining that position is so hard! Is there an easy way?

 
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Terri R.
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 26, 2005 8:41 p    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I am often snatched back to being "OF" this world as I go through daily struggles of keeping my modern conveniences and creature comforts (even though I KNOW nothing is permanent I still like having them and try not to lose anything more)




This is SO true for many, if not ALL of us. With so much going on in our daily lives, it's much easier to be IN this world -- sustained by worldly values, than it is to be OF this world -- sustained by spiritual values.

Quote:


struggling with my own ego because things aren't going the way I would like them to go, or I think would be the best way ... both in my home and in the world in general.


Wouldn't this be the same IN/OF concept? If we view the world as it is... as an illusion... we can then (perhaps) let go of ego and act from spiritual consciousness. We can realize that we are immortal/spiritual beings, evolving through this illusory world, solely as a learning experience. Then it would be easy to be OF this world. However, once our very human compassionate side enters, I don't see any way to avoid being IN this world. I don't know.... I could be wrong... but I think it's definitely more painful to be IN this world than OF this world.

Terri
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Terri R.
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 26, 2005 8:43 p    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Buddha taught that the root of unhappiness lies in the fact that nothing is permanent, and everything changes. Comparison also leads to unhappiness.

We all KNOW this very simple premise... nothing lasts forever... yet we tend to carry on as though everything lasts forever - until death do us part. A mistaken belief in permanence. Perhaps because that while we are happy, if FEELS as though our happiness can last forever, so when we lose whatever it was that made us feel happy, whatever we have grown attached to, we experience the pain of loss. Change is a given fact of life, so we try to hold onto things (and people) that are near and dear to us.

Impermanence is the second characteristic of life. The third is the non-existence or absence of an unchanging, independent, ego-self. Some refer to the ego-self as soul. The Buddha believed that this ego-self is a product of various conditions that have temporarily come together, and interact for as long as we are in the physical. When we go through what Cathi was talking about in the previous post.... that awareness that things are not as we would like for them to be, the ego-self emerges as a defense mechanism to help us cope with the lack of control we have over our lives... or over anything, for that matter. When we experience the pain of loss, we entrench ourselves behind the protection of our ego-minds.... as some sort of vain attempt to ward off the pain and discomfort. Of course, this leads to greater attachment and even more possibilities for more pain, suffering, and frustration.

Buddhism teaches that there are three main methods that the ego-mind adopts in regards to desperate measures:

1. Aversion - the desire to either shut out the apparent threat, or destroy it.

2. Control - control through attachment; by engulfing the situation with our wishes and desires... as if we actually have control over the situation and able to force the outcome to go in our favor.

3. Ignore - ignore it, and it will go away... we pretend it is not happening in the vain hope that it will somehow vanish of its own accord.

All three of these strategies are considered to be negative emotions in Buddhism, and they generate a whole list of subsidiary emotions, such as jealousy, anger, resentment and greed... to name a few

Enter Karma.

These negative emotions are the catalyst for our actions, and are often preceded by a particular intention... which we may, or may not, be fully aware of.

Our actions are charged with emotional energy, which means that the effects stretch well beyond the immediate results, or consequences. And because of this, any action has an effect that goes beyond ourselves while at the same time enters our minds. If the situation is a positive experience, all is well and good.

The energy that enters our minds will be released at some point in the future, when circumstances trigger off further experiences that reflect the energy pattern of the original motivation. Buddhist scriptures depict this process in detail. Regardless of the specifics of an experience, negative motivations and actions lead to painful experiences. The appropriate circumstances for enlightenment usually fail to present themselves during our present lifetime, thus we are subject to rebirth, reincarnation, until the negative energy inside us has been exhausted. (energy/thoughts)

With that said, in our ordinary, mundane, day to day lives, we tend to create more and more negative energy (with our thoughts and actions), so the process never ends. And this is the meaning of karma, which is unlike the Western concept wherein Karma is a system of rewards and punishments.

Is there a cure.... a way to stop the cycle???

 Just as a physician examines a patient, diagnoses the condition, then prescribes a course of treatment, the Buddha did much the same when the taught a set of four observations about human conditions - the Four Noble Truths.

First: the sickness - life is filled with suffering and unhappiness.
Second: the cause of suffering - attachment and comparison.
Third: the good news - the condition is curable.
Fourth: the treatment - the Eightfold path, which details the areas of our lives where we can make changes, and how we should do this:
1. Right understanding
2. Right purpose
3. Right speech
4. Right conduct
5. Right livelihood
6. Right effort
7. Right alertness
8. Right meditative concentration.

These eight elements are practiced concurrently rather than as a consecutive sequence. The eightfold path elements negative emotions, and thus brings the cycle of continual rebirth to an end... Enlightenment.

The role of meditation is an important factor in all of this. As Buddhism developed over the centuries, many different methods for meditation were developed, but they all stem from the two basic types of meditation which are central to the practice of Zen.
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Terri R.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2005 11:52 p    Post subject: Applying Zen in Daily Life Reply with quote

So far, much of what has been discussed on this forum regarding the practice of Zen has had to do with meditation. While a lot of time is spent in meditation, practitioners are also encouraged to live their lives according to certain precepts and to apply insights gained through meditation to everyday situations. Man cannot live by meditation alone.

Once you've made progress with your meditation and you've discovered that your mind has become a little calmer, then you should try to bring your newfound tranquility and clarity into your ineractions with the people and situations you encounter in your day to day life. Our conflicting emotions govern the way we act and react to things. We tend to be hostile to things (and people) that annoy us, or bruise our tender egos.... and we become attached to things that hold out the false promise of happiness.

Use the skill of bringing your attention to any situation with an intense single-mindedness... focus on one object/task at a time. In doing so, you will also be cultivating the Zen virtue of wholeheartedness, and living in the moment. This means that when someone demands your attention, you do not deal with h/her superficially while wishing that you were doing something else, or wishing you were some place else. That would be a halfhearted attitude. By focusing your unwavering attention upon the situation at hand, you will notice that you are better able to help, or better see what the "real story" is. A mind that has been disciplined by meditation is somewhat more lucid, and void of the usual emotional reactions. This clarity of mind is said to lead to direct perception, where we can see things as they truly are. This also leads to a truly intimate and open relationship with the people in your life.

When ego reacts to any changes that seem to threaten our comfort zones... our comfortable delusions.... it adopts strategies from its arsenal -- anger, jealousy, laziness, greed, attachment, etc. All of our defense mechanisms hinder the spontaneity that is held in high regard by many Zen masters.

You're not going to be able to do all of this over night, or only with a few meditation sessions. But the good news is that you will be able to, at the very least, control some of the most obvious manifestations of our negative emotions.

As you've learned thus far, all things are impermanent, and all things change. This means that it's an exercise in futility to attempt to hold onto what will inevitably be gone, no matter what you do. This also means that you will learn (if you are not already) to be self-reliant.... and you will learn to seek the truth for yourself, rather than blindly follow what others say. This is contrary to what some religions teach; that you will be saved ONLY IF you believe in this or that, or ONLY IF you act in some particular way because the scriptures command that you do so. Buddhism teaches that the final arbiter of Truth must be yourself. We all have an inherent potential for Enlightenment. We all start out in this world as "enlightened beings." But then things spiral downward as we are taught by parents, teachers, society, and our culture to think and believe a certain way. In Zen, we learn to reply upon ourselves, and in so doing, we are relying upon our intrinsic "Buddha nature."

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