Monday, February 24, 2014

Zen and the Real World

Kanja Odland Roshi

No one can guarantee anything when it comes to Zen practice. Well, I can almost guarantee that if you do zazen (the meditation that is the foundation of Zen), you will get pain in the legs sometimes and it’s quite likely that you will feel tired when you do it in the early mornings; that you will have moments of discouragement and moments of ease and joy. There are many things that are quite probable, but luckily, there is nothing that is certain other than this: if it is a practice that resonates with you, in doing it you cannot escape and your mind seeks unification with everything else. Your whole being moves into the territory of non-separation, and there’s an absolute attraction towards experiencing reality as it is. To quote the cybernetic race in Star Trek called the Borg, "Resistance is futile; you will be assimilated." Some people say that the whole idea of “oneness” is either a romantic New Age idea or something that is so natural that we don’t need to do anything other than just be.

Isn’t it better to use the time doing something that produces useful results in the real world instead of wasting time in meditation? "Go and help people in the real world," some people might say. Or, "Don’t just sit there
do something!" But in Zen we find a different approach. My first Zen teacher, Philip Kapleau, had a baseball cap that said, "Don’t just do somethingsit there!"

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Road Less Traveled: A Nun Who Carved Out Her Own Niche in the Slums of India

Ayya Yeshe Bodhicitta

Ayya Yeshe

I discovered Buddhism whilst in India at the age of seventeen on the hippie trail in search of the meaning of life. My father died when I was fourteen, sending me into a deep depression. I left home at fifteen, thinking there must be more to life than paying off a house for the rest of my life.

I fell in love with Tibetan Buddhism as it thoroughly intellectually convinced me of the truth of life. The truths of the Dharma were experiential and for the first time in my life I found a deep, heart-opening happiness. After doing “meditation on the kindness of the mother,” it was clear to me that practicing for awakening and working for the benefit of all beings is the point of life, and that all other things—possessions and power—were superfluous. I saw how sophisticated my own society was, yet how little happiness we possessed, so time-poor and lost in a net of our own complexity and consumerism. I also knew from experience how wonderful and yet ultimately unstable relationships could be.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Interviewing Buddhist Women: Miskaman Rujavichai

Brooke Schedneck

Miskaman Rujavichai at Wat Pa Baan Taad

Miskaman Rujavichai is a disciple of the well-known Thai monk, the late Luang Ta Maha Boowa [1] (1913–2011). Since 1982 she has lived at the temple he founded, Wat Pa Baan Taad [Baan Taad Forest Monastery], where he was abbot for many years. I met Miskaman while doing research for my dissertation on international meditation communities in Thailand. At the monastery an international group would meet once a week with English-speaking monks who were giving Dhamma talks. Miskaman was one of the friendly faces in this group who helped the international guests. I kept a research website called Wandering Dhamma for my findings, and Miskaman kept in touch by commenting on the site and emailing me when new developments in the international group at Wat Pa Baan Taad developed. I asked Miskaman to tell me more about her memories of Luang Ta Maha Boowa and how she came to live at that temple. At first she did not want to reveal this information, telling me of other women she considered better practitioners. I convinced her however, that her story was interesting for Sakyadhita blog readers.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Business Beneath the Patch Robe

by Ryūmon Hilda Gutiérrez Baldoquín Sensei

Today I went on an early afternoon walk on a road called Cemetery. It’s a not a very long road—a quarter of a mile long. If you are heading north, it veers to the right, downhill off South Road, the main road cutting through the center of town. Cemetery then comes to an end and meets South Road, from which it veered, once again, four-tenths of a mile up, like an outward-curved parenthesis, or a smile. In this small and very rural New England town—no street lights, no post office, one of eighteen dry towns in the Commonwealth—where I have lived for the past four years, it is common to find roads like this.

The town is a “right-to-farm community and there is a right-to-farm bylaw in effect,” says the notice from the town’s Collector of Taxes. I never thought myself a farmer, coming from a lineage of maids, bread makers, cooks, union factory workers, construction laborers, gas station attendants, corner store owners, seamstresses, and beauticians. Yet, living here I experience a deep joy and contentment that the three vegetable beds, six by three feet, and the small herb garden my partner and I put in each spring is part of a greater constellation of human beings who have honored, cared for, and worked the earth going back thousands of years, not just an urban fad.