Daily Tao

The Tao in Everyday Life

Archive for the category “Zen / Buddhism”

Zen: The Art of Asking the Right Questions

It seems many of us have a yearning need to find the answers to some of the most pressing  questions our thinking minds can conjure, to discover the meaning behind every one of our experiences…It seems that without these questions our lives become utterly meaningless:

  • What is the meaning of life ?
  • Why am I suffering ?
  • What was the purpose of God in creating mankind ?

In many ways these questions are understandable. But they can also become totally overwhelming because these questions are a product of our thinking mind and our thinking mind, even though exquisitely impressive on its own plane (that is the world of relativity) is sadly also the cause of much of our own suffering.

Zen is a very peculiar spiritual discipline, so unique in its approach that there have been numerous attempts to discredit it as not even part of the body of Buddhist teaching…True and False.  Because if Buddhist teaching is merely conforming with everything that is taught without the vaguest attempt at self questioning or self enquiry then that is true, it cannot be part of the Buddhist Canon. But if true Buddhist teaching is putting an end to all relative concepts, including indeed concepts of Buddhism, Zen or Buddha, then it most definitely is Buddhism !

For me Zen is really a form of psychotherapy (it is simply a corruption of the Sanskrit word dhyana which means meditation). Zen is a shift in perspective, seeing things not from the personal perspective anymore but from the impersonal, which, ultimately speaking,  is the Universal Self common to all living beings. Questions such as the above may only lead to more confusion and suffering (if not properly understood for Zen does make use of questions in the koan teaching technique)  so perhaps the only right question to ask is: “Why worry about questions ?”


On Trusting the Intuition: the Sixth Sense Organ

Every day as we go about our lives we rely on (and trust) our sense organs of smell, sight, touch, taste and hearing. These we take for granted and do not even give it a second thought. There is however within our brains a 6th organ of sense which we have completed abandoned (and eventually learned to distrust) through basic lack of use.

The Buddhist teaching on Prajna is quite an interesting one. It is understood to be the natural state of all things animate and inanimate. Basically it is the source of all manifestation.

The more we let go of our beliefs, needs and ideas the more we fall into this natural state. It’s first felt a s a dim glimmer and, in the beginning, when we’re not too familiar with it, we all too readily dismiss its solutions in favour of our intellect (which are intimately tied to the 5 senses) because we have been conditioned to do that. If it’s not logical dismiss it !

But as you progress in your practice, in your meditation, you begin to recognise it more and more, its light grows stronger, illuminating your mind and thoughts until you  begin to trust its judgment just as much as you trust the judgment of your sight or other sense organs, or even more  as there will be a growing sense and realisation in you that this is actually your true self, your only self, the only self that can possibly be.

So how do you recognise it in practice, what’s its footprint ? It’s a feeling of certainty, of joy and of happiness beyond external circumstances. You will begin to feel that this is not of time, but that of which is beyond time. And its manifestation ? A much happier, fulfilled and successful life.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. – Galatians 5:22-23 – New International Version (NIV) – with thanks to biblegateway.com

Let’s end with the Buddha’s last words :

So long as the monks shall live among the worthy, cherishing, both in public and private, that infallible intuition that results in the cessation of sorrow of him who acts according to it – so long may you be expected not to decline but to prosper. – The Wisdom of Buddhism, Christmas Humphreys

Zen Parable: Heaven and Hell

A young Zen monk asked an aged master about the difference between heaven and hell. “There are no material differences,” replied the master, “Both heaven and hell have a big pot of delicious noodles in the middle of a spacious hall, where the size of the pot and the number of people sitting around the pot is exactly the same. The odd thing is that each person is given a pair of yard-long chopsticks with which to eat the noodles. But in hell people are always hungry because no matter how hard they try, they can’t get the noodles into their mouths,” said the old master.

“Isn’t it the same for the people in heaven?’ asked the young monk. “No,” replied the master. “They can eat in heaven because they each feed the person sitting across the table from them!”

reproduced from www.buddhistbootcamp.com

Tao Lessons from Bruce Lee: Non Fixation

Non fixation, non straining and non striving, (just) aim at the spontaneous development of yourself …

bruce lee

Becoming a Master According to Bruce Lee

Before I studied the art a punch was just a punch and a kick was just a kick. When I started studying the art a punch was no longer a punch and a kick was no longer a kick. Now that I understand the art a punch is just a punch and a kick is just a kick.

This describes beautifully the process of mastering any art or discipline. We are all born with an inner freedom and an innate sense of right and wrong but as soon as someone tries to point us to it we stop to think about it and suddenly we lose that original sense of freedom. Bruce Lee once said in the development of his fighting art of Jeet Kune Do that a good teacher points his or her student towards their own inner freedom without crippling them with a “classical mess” … or words to that effect.

Therefore real learning is all about re-discovering the innate talents and freedoms we have lost during the course of our own evolution.

True Mastery According to Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee, martial arts legend, once said: “I don’t fear the man who knows ten thousand techniques – I fear the man who has practised one technique ten thousand times.”

In the East they have a much different notion of mastery, much further removed from technology than we have here in the West, almost becoming spiritual in nature: Two braggarts once entered an inn and started to taunt an elderly man that was sitting there quietly eating his food. After the man had finished his food, he simply flicked his chopsticks and caught a fly. In quick order the two braggarts left. What they had realised in that moment was that they were dealing with a master, someone who had probably mastered whatever craft he was into, and was probably a master of anything else that he did, including punching you in the guts.

Mastery is a matter of spirit, not of technology.

Zen Lessons : The Ghosts of Master Linji

Linji (Jap. Rinzai), the father of Rinzai Zen, used to say that his purpose was in exercising ghosts. He would advise :

Followers of the Way [of Chán, that is Zen], if you want to get the kind of understanding that accords with the Dharma, never be misled by others. Whether you’re facing inward or facing outward, whatever you meet up with, just kill it! If you meet a buddha, kill the buddha. If you meet a patriarch, kill the patriarch. If you meet an arhat, kill the arhat. If you meet your parents, kill your parents. If you meet your kinfolk, kill your kinfolk. Then for the first time you will gain emancipation, will not be entangled with things, will pass freely anywhere you wish to go.

In other words freely kill any concept that comes your way, do not become entangled with it.

Of course concepts do have their uses, as we have witnessed to much benefit in the sciences for example, but unfortunately most of us are completely taken in by them, entranced into a ghostly world of thoughts, concepts, ideas and symbols. Buddhism calls this the world of Maya (or Delusion), a completely false identification with the process of thinking which is but a representation, a symbolisation, a partialisation of the reality we live in and not the reality itself.

And this is the cause of much suffering, dis-ease, misapprehension, misunderstanding and distrust. One obvious example is the flag symbol where we have witnessed countless times throughout history how ordinary people will carry out the most inhumane acts for its name.

Walking into a Sauna – Rediscovering Your Own Suffering

The First Noble Truth in Buddhism teaches that all beings suffer. Whether they are Human, Animal, Ghostly or Godly makes no difference. We all undergo suffering at one point or another. One may read this and think “yeah, noble thought” and then forget all about it.  Because, after all, the whole premise of Western society is built on the pursuit of personal comfort, so why would that be relevant ?

But then today I had the opportunity of spending some time at the gym, that old haven of personal comfort, and I decided to laze it out  in the sauna, since I hadn’t been for a while.  After a while, the heat started playing on my mind and it started to turn to thoughts of a “higher order” : So this must be what it’s like to burn alive…but I’m sure this doesn’t even compare to burning alive,  I’m  sure burning alive would be ten times worse, far worse …  So when you hear of victims burning alive in the Twin Towers this is what they go through ! … And this can happen so suddenly and it all suddenly seems so much more real.

So the next time we read some nice (or maybe not so nice) piece of Scripture like “the whole world is ablaze with the fires of hatred delusion and anger” then maybe it’s not just some piece of nice poetry anymore, maybe it’s much more real than that !

Did the Buddha really Care about Buddhism ?

The Baghavad Gita relates the condition of Mankind as someone who has just been shot with an arrow who is more concerned about the conditon of the arrow, what kind of wood it’s made of, whether the individual who shot that arrow was of low or high birth, which caste he came from etc…than he is about getting rid of the arrow altogether.

The Buddha once related: “This only I teach: suffering and the end of suffering“. In other words, what are the causes of suffering and what are the ways out of this suffering ?

Many would come to the Buddha with long discourses on high philosophy and obtruse religion: What’s the meaning of Nirvana ? What’s the meaning of Rebirth ? Why has God created the universe ? …to which  the Buddha would often reply with a dignified silence. For, as long as one has not discovered the causes of one’s own suffering, what is the point of all that talk ?

Many like to engage in philosophical discourses of what it means to be a Buddhist, or a Christian, or a Muslim, or whatever they happen to come by, some ready to kill anyone who disagrees with their image or  idea of what it is to be so and so. They like to feel that they are a Buddhist, they like to feel that they are a Christian and everyone else is not, and that is that.

But when the Buddha had his Realisation was he then more concerned about being a Buddhist or was he more concerned about having realised the truth of his own condition ? Did Jesus even care about being a Christian ?

Empty Mind, Empty Hand

Gichin Funakoshi is widely credited to have been the father of Modern Karate through his art of Shoto-Kan Karate (literally meaning “Tiger’s Tail”, his pen name). One of his favourite phrases was that not only that Karate-Do is the Way of the Empty Hand (from the Japanese characters Kara meaning empty, Te meaning hand and Do meaning way) but more importantly the Way of the Empty Mind, in other words a mind devoid of ego and the pursuit of self. Noble maybe but the spirit still rings true. Whatever you do do with an empty hand and, more importantly than that, do with an empty mind. Do not seek the results of your own actions, only be content with their own doing.

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