Posted in stories

The Buddha Holds Up A Flower

This is the story that gets told as the beginning of the Zen tradition. The Buddha was a beloved and well known spiritual teacher. People just followed him around and listened to what he had to say. He would regularly just get up in front of a crowd and start dispensing wisdom.

On one occasion he stood up before a crowd. They were all very excited, thinking they were about to hear some great wisdom, something that would really awaken or encourage them.

The Buddha stood up and just stood there silently. Then, he held up a flower.

So, we can imagine, the crowd is thinking “What the fuck?” They were expecting some great, serious, profound teaching and they didn’t get one. It was just a flower.

They were holding onto their expectations, memories, and disappointment.

And one guy in the crowd smiled.

Why did he smile?

He smiled because he wasn’t holding on to anything. When he saw the flower, it was just a flower. He wasn’t carrying all the baggage and expectations that we often carry. Sometimes a flower is just a flower.

This story is meant to inspire and encourage us. If he can see the flower and just see a flower, so can we. We don’t have to bring all of our baggage into every situation all the time. We can also just smile at a flower.

here’s a video about this story:

here’s the audio version:

The Flower and the Smile

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Want to come meditate with me? I’m at Ubuntu Village Monday nights at 7pm. Meditation Practice, Support, and Encouragement. 4327 Troost, Kansas City, MO.

Visit my YouTube Channel to hear  Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast The Kansas City Meditation Podcast

Posted in videos

Hakuin and the Accusation (video)

Hakuin was a zen teacher in Japan in the 1700s.

further reading:

Hakuin and the Accusation

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Want to come meditate with me? I’m at Ubuntu Village Monday nights at 7pm. Meditation Practice, Support, and Encouragement. 4327 Troost, Kansas City, MO.

Visit my YouTube Channel to hear  Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast Scharpening the Mind

Posted in videos

Entering the Gate (video)

The path is sometimes called “the Gateless Gate”

The only thing stopping you is you.

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If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

Want to come meditate with me? I’m at HDKC Monday nights at 7pm. Meditation Practice, Support, and Encouragement. 4327 Troost, Kansas City, MO.

Visit my YouTube Channel to hear  Talks!

And go check out my Podcast Scharpening the Mind

Posted in fountain city meditation, videos

Face Whatever Appears Before You (video)

This is talk was recorded at Fountain City Meditation on 9/30/19.

The meditation is 29 minutes and the talk is 7 minutes.

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If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

Want to come meditate with me? I’m at HDKC Monday nights at 7pm. Meditation Practice, Support, and Encouragement. 4327 Troost, Kansas City, MO.

Visit my YouTube Channel to hear  Talks!

And go check out my Podcast Scharpening the Mind

Posted in podcast, videos, zen

Zen Mind Workshop @Aquarius (video)

I had this opportunity to give this talk at Aquarius KC in their “Saturday Sages” series. Aquarius KC is a pagan/new age book store that has been in Kansas City for many years. People don’t realize it happens to be the best place to shop for malas and Buddha statues too, as far as I can tell. If you’re in KC, you should go there. Here’s their website: https://aquariuskc.com/

The video contains about half of the talk. The podcast linked below contains audio of the whole talk.

This talk was recorded on September 28th. Around 30 people were in attendance. If they invited me to give another talk there, I definitely would. It was a good experience.

 

click here for the audio version of the complete talk and discussion, including Q and A. The audience asked some great questions.

Zen Mind Workshop -Podcast episode

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Want to come meditate with me? I’m at HDKC Monday nights at 7pm. Meditation Practice, Support, and Encouragement. 4327 Troost, Kansas City, MO.

Visit my YouTube Channel to hear Dharma Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast Scharpening the Mind

 

Posted in zen

Be Real and Live Your Best Life – Four Zen Gates

 

I’m going to talk about an old Buddhist teaching and see if I can tie to our everyday life and find meaning in it for us. This is the teaching of the four gates. It’s from Zen Master Bodhidharma. He listed these four things that he thought were important to us as we start on the Buddhist path. I’m going to go through these one by one.

  1. Retribution of Enmity; in our lives we need to realize when we’re wrong. We need to admit our flaws and not lie to ourselves all the time, because we do lie to ourselves all the time. We’re often when think about ourselves either lifting ourselves up and pretending we’re better than we are or tearing ourselves down and thinking very lowly of ourselves. We rarely see ourselves clearly. When we do something wrong we need to admit it and we need to try to make it better. We need to try to be better. I’m trying to learn how to stop saying I’m sorry and instead say “I will do better.” Because when you say, “I’m sorry,” you’re sort of putting an expectation on the other person to say it’s okay. We should try to forgive people, but also we should focus on trying to be better rather than trying to get forgiveness so that we don’t have to apologize again.
  2. Acceptance of Circumstances; equanimity. Our ability to weather the storms of life. To be moderately content with whatever is happening. Sometimes we really let life tear us down, over big things and small things. We’re talking about accepting things and having an even mind, not falling apart when things go wrong. Sometimes one bad thing goes wrong and it ruins everything for us. In Buddhism we often call that equanimity. Sometimes we call it patience too. We’re talking about keeping an even mind with whatever is happening because the truth is life is going to kick us all the time and we need to learn how to accept things.
  3. Absence of Craving; we shouldn’t be giving in to all our temptations all the time. Be mindful of what we’re doing and know when something is not a good idea. I have a habit of giving in to my temptations all the time and that’s something a lot of people struggle with. There’s all sorts of temptations. We might eat all our kids Halloween candy. Or drink too much (alcohol or soda) there’s so many ways we can overconsume and give in to craving. Sometimes we feel like there’s a hole in us that we need to fill. We crave all sorts of things and we pursue them too much. We even think about sex too much. That’s a craving too. We have all sorts of cravings and Bodhidharma is telling us we need to learn how to manage that and not get carried away with our cravings. We’ve all had the experience where we know we shouldn’t indulge something, but we really want to so we do it anyway. I think we can all relate to that. Bodhidharma is telling us we need to reign that in. We need to make the best choices we can instead of giving in to our temptations all the time. Think about what you’re doing and don’t over-do it.
  4. Act in Accordance with the Dharma; to us this line might not resonate very well. So, with all respect to Bodhidharma I want to paraphrase that and say “act to be real” when he talks about being in accordance he’s talking about living our best life and seeing the way the world is and learning about our place in it. Being more aware, attentive, mindful and honest with ourselves. The Dharma is sort of the correct way of reality, of letting life unfold as it should. We should be real, fully real. In a world full of people that are lying to themselves and lying to others and not being authentic, we should be real and genuine in all our relationships and in all our situations. I like to say that is the core of what Buddhism is all about. It’s about being real because it’s very easy to not be real. It’s easy to be fake. So let’s be real.

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Visit my YouTube Channel to hear Dharma Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast Scharpening the Mind

Posted in buddhism, zen

Virtue – Meditation – Wisdom

Our goal on this path is to live as genuinely as we can. We want to be real and unleash our full potential to see things clearly and to lessen the suffering of ourselves and others. We have within us incredible potential for wisdom and compassion and what we’re trying to do here is manifest that potential. We are enslaved by our baggage, delusion, and lack of clarity. This path is about learning to manage those things.

How do we do this?

The Zen tradition has something called the threefold study that we can think about here. The cultivation of virtue, meditation and wisdom. All Buddhist teachings contain these three categories, really.

The traditional way of cultivating virtue is in the five precepts. No killing, no stealing, no sexual misconduct, no false speech, no indulging in intoxicants. These are not commandments, I can’t stress that enough. It’s just been demonstrated that if you’re not going around killing people, you have an easier time settling your mind and developing clarity. Precepts also help us lessen our attachment to our ego. We are so pulled around by our desires and our aversions. Precepts are meant to help us resist our temptations some. We might try to think of precepts as a walking stick rather than as a chain. The nature and intent of the precepts is to help us maintain a life of harmony. If we have harmony with the world around us, we have a much easier time practicing. As a result of cultivating virtue, the mind has an easier time settling and focusing.

When we turn our awareness inward, we can start to develop deeper and deeper awareness. This is what meditation is all about. When we develop concentration and clarity, it gives us a chance to see our true nature, which is free of all this baggage and delusion. Our attention is scattered and fractured and meditation helps us to direct it where we need it to go.
When we learn how to focus, it gives our minds a chance to manifest our inherent clarity. This is wisdom. Wisdom means seeing the world as it actually is, without being clouded by our judgments and preconceived ideas and labels. These things filter our reality and we rarely get a clear picture of what’s happening. Wisdom is the great insight into how things really are: interdependent, dynamic, and full of wonder.

To cultivate virtue is to free ourselves from our fixations of attachment and aversion, love and hate. To cultivate meditation is to free ourselves from distractions. To cultivate wisdom is to stop obstructing our true nature. In this tradition we are practicing these three together as a way to awaken to our true nature.

 


 

Visit my YouTube Channel to hear Dharma Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast Scharpening the Mind

 

Posted in buddhism, ch'an, zen

The Great Way

“The Great Way is Gateless,

Approached in a thousand ways.

Once past this checkpoint

You stride through the universe.”

 

This is the opening of the famous Zen text “The Gateless Gate”.

It sounds like weird hippie nonsense. A lot of old Zen sayings like this are a little hard to unpack because sometimes they seem so weird.

I think it’s worth a second look.

The Great Way is the path we’re on. The path inspired by the Buddha, the cultivating of awareness and compassion. Find your true nature and help others, that sums up the path.

When we say it’s gateless, we’re saying there’s nothing stopping you. It’s right there, like an open door. Your true nature is always with you. It’s never not present. The door is open. Spiritual teachers can point you to the door, but they don’t open it for you. It’s already open. The gate is gateless. We could say teachers are just selling water by the river.

“If you can’t find enlightenment here and now, where else do you expect to find it?” -Dogen

Your true nature is free and awake, you just have to notice that the gate is open.

It’s approached in a thousand ways because we all come to the path bringing different things with us. My difficulty on the path might be giving into temptation all the time or making excuses to not meditate. Yours might be a tendency to give into anger, or to compare yourself to others too much. We’re all a little different and we come to the path for different reasons, so it’s approached in a thousand ways.

But we’re all on the same path.

And once we enter the gate, freedom is on the other side. The freedom to put down our emotional baggage and our insecurities and our fixations. When we can put those down and truly see ourselves as we are, we can stride through the universe.

“You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.” -Rumi

What do we need to do? We need to set our intention. We need to decide we want to go through the gateless gate. That’s the beginning.

Posted in zen

What’s Zen?

There’s a famous four line description of the zen tradition that has come down to us. This list is attributed to Bodhidharma and it’s really supposed to be what sets the Zen tradition apart, what makes Zen different from the rest of Buddhism and what we can keep in mind as zen practitioners.

These four lines express what the zen tradition is and why it’s important.

A separate transmission outside the scriptures;

Not dependent on words and letters;

Direct pointing at the human mind;

Seeing one’s nature and becoming Buddha.

This sounds serious but maybe it’s hard to understand. So I’ll go down it line by line.

A separate transmission

This means our practice is in our lives. We aren’t simply studying sutras and talking about how great Buddhism is. We are actualizing the teachings in our lives. Hopefully we are also having a dedicated relationship with a teacher and/or a community that can help us on the path.

Not dependent on words and letters

Buddhist writing (and teaching) points in the direction of awakening, but ultimately these things should be viewed as maps and hints, not really as sacred texts. They are to be relied on only in as far as we’re trying to use them to point the way. Most writings have come out of someone else’s experience, an effort to describe the experience they’ve had on the path. These are useful and helpful. But the important point is awakening and we won’t come to that with intellectual understanding alone.

Direct pointing at the human mind

Our aim in this path is awakening, seeing our true nature. Making efforts to recognize our true nature is the beginning of the path. The fundamental nature of our being is awakening and what we’re trying to do is uncover that, not at some later time or in some later life…here and now. Be here now. All the teachings are meant to point us in the direction of our true nature.

Seeing one’s nature and becoming Buddha

Seeing one’s nature is recognizing your true self. Becoming Buddha is actualizing and embodying that. We don’t practice to get somewhere or attain something. We all have Buddha Nature. We have awakening already. We are practicing because that’s what Buddhas do. We are all Buddhas. We are dedicated to seeing our awakening and integrating it into our lives.

 

The Zen approach takes awakening as the path. As practitioners we strive to give ourselves to our training and follow the path that’s been laid out for us. Hopefully we can rely on teachers and/or communities and truly throw ourselves into the process of awakening.

That’s all there is.