Tenderness

The Shushogi is a 19th century compilation, originally for the Japanese laity, of some of Great Master Dogen’s works. Chapter 4 is entitled ‘Awakening to the mind of the Bodhisattva’. The chapter is about the four wisdoms of charity, tenderness, benevolence and sympathy. I would like to concentrate on tenderness, mainly because it can appear to be an undervalued part of zen practice. This may be partly, I think, to an over dependence on or misreading of the koan collections in zen. Although in many cases they describe actions that come from a deep well of compassion, the many cases of raised fists, shouts, punches and kicks which are used to shake the student free of ingrained ways of behaviour and thinking can be misunderstood  when not seen from the perspective of a master/disciple relationship or even a cultural context. This can lead to wrong action rooted in a self which rather than being transformed becomes an endless cycle of similar behaviour.

Here is what Dogen has to say from the Shushogi:

‘By praising those who exhibit virtue, and feeling sorry for those who do not, our enemies become our friends and they who are our friends have their friendship strenghtened: this is all through the power of tenderness. Whenever one speaks kindly to another their face brtightens and their heart is warmed; if a kind word be spoken in his absence, the impression will be a deep one: tenderness can have a revolutionary impact upon the mind of man.’

 

All this can seem obvious and straight forward yet within practice and for sincere and genuine reasons we can easily judge others efforts. We can believe ourselves to be in the right and that we can put them right if only what others did would reflect itself in what we do ourselves. To give a kindly smile or word can to some of us at any particular time seem a bit lax or insipid and a sterner countenance is needed. Well maybe it is, but it can still arise from tenderness and compassion. I don’t believe Dogen is talking about just being nice but he is saying be gentle.

Tenderness can be seen and experienced when we know there is nothing to hold onto or gain. Tenderness is comfortable in its true home where it can roam freely within the precepts. With good strong roots tenderness can bend with the wind rather than snap or get blown away. If we can sit with open hands and a generous heart, the begging bowl that is this body/mind, and can accept all that is placed in it, this then is a charitable act, a tender act, a benevolent act and a sympathetic act, to ourselves as well as others. To look and see tenderly is to know that all is soft and yielding yet may have the appearance of being hard and unforgiving. Whilst we may not see fully and clearly see, it shouldn’t put us off taking steps to do so. We all have the potential to awaken to the mind of the bodhisattva.

Rev. Gareth Milliken

Shushogi from Zen is Eternal Life                                                                                        Rev. Master Jiyu Kennett                                                                                                   Shasta Abbey Press

Do you have a recipe for success?

Life is full of seeming contradiction.   On the one hand, for instance, we know that nothing stays the same and everything is impermanent.  On the other hand, we also know that what we do has results; there is cause and effect.

So whilst on the impermanence thread, we may think there is nothing to care for too much as none of it is going to persist.  On the cause and effect thread, we may see that it matters very much what we do, think, etc.  Two opposing views- when all we want is a simple recipe for conducting one’s life…e.g. do things matter or don’t they?

There is something “dead in the water” about asking for a recipe, a solution, a “how” question about achieving successful living.

Is Buddhism a recipe for improving one’s lot, placating suffering or changing oneself?  Not exactly.  And yet these are almost always the conscious or semi-conscious driving force behind our choosing to meditate and being mindfully aware through the day; speaking kindly and following the Precepts.

A recipe is about having necessary ingredients and a method in order to produce something which is predictable/tangible…an end result, a goal.  We are the do-ers.

I am not saying that our lives are not changed for the better through Buddhism.  I want to suggest that the approach is much more to do with exploration and experience and responding in the moment…a fluid movement, more intimate with the flowing of all things.  For here lies something worth arriving in.

Rather than a recipe, you’d do better to ask for medicine.  And let it work on you.

The medicine of Buddhist teaching or dharma in the Zen tradition in general, and at Reading Buddhist Priory, is given in small doses.  We trust that it will work on us. This does not rule out thinking about it, musing on it; but we need not delineate // fix it // nail it to the wall, for this must move with us, as does all things.

Rev. Jishin.

PS  If you absolutely need something solid to go on right now:  Yes, absolutely, it does matter!

Where do we begin? With right speech.

Here are extracts from an article by Rev. Oriana LaChance, who is Prior at Eugene Buddhist Priory, Oregon, USA.  The full article can be found in the Newsletter, www.eugenebuddhistpriory.org

Where do we begin? With right speech.

“Before you speak, ask yourself: Does it improve on the silence?”
Charles Bock, from Alice and Oliver, 2016

………….Hatred and hate speech are directed toward “the other,” whomever that other might be. Increasingly, “the other” is anybody who does not feel, look, worship, adhere to the same ideas, the same sexual orientation, have the same culture or history as I. If I view “the other” in this way, my world of the acceptable is a very narrow world–in fact, a self-imposed prison.

How do those of us who take refuge in Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha navigate this not-so-brave new world? What can we bring to it that is of benefit to ourselves and others?
Eight centuries ago, our ancestor Great Master Dogen spoke to his disciples about the bodhisattva’s four methods of guidance—one of them is kind speech:

Kind speech means that when you see sentient beings, you arouse the heart of compassion and offer words of loving care. It is contrary to cruel or violent speech. . . . Praise those with virtue; pity those without it. If kind speech is offered, little by little kind speech expands. Thus, even kind speech that is not ordinarily known or seen comes into being. Be willing to practice it for this entire present life; do not give up, world after world, life after life. Kind speech is the basis for reconciling rulers and subduing enemies. Those who hear kind speech from you have a delighted expression and a joyful mind. Those who hear of your kind speech will be deeply touched; they will always remember it.

(from “The Bodhisattva’s Four Methods of Guidance,” Treasury of the True Dharma Eye, edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi, Shambhala, p. 475).

You would like to know where to begin? Deeply explore your own divisive speech, whether you talk against a family member, neighbor, co-worker, politician. Divisive speech separates us, leads to “me” and “them,” “us” and “the other.”

In the Anguttara Nikaya, Book of the Fives, the Buddha presents five conditions to investigate before speaking:

(1) Do I speak at the right time and place, or not?
(2) Do I speak the truth, or not?
(3) Do I speak gently or harshly?
(4) Do I speak beneficial words, or not?
(5) Do I speak with a kindly heart, or not?

According to these five conditions, the Buddha encourages us to speak only when it is the right time and place, when it is true, when it is kind, when it is helpful, and when we speak out of good will. If our words do not meet each of these five conditions, then it is time to be silent. In this way, we are encouraged to let go of our small concerns and to embrace a wider, more universal community of imperfect beings just like ourselves.

Please, can each one of us do our best to refrain from hate speech, putdowns, gossip, rudeness, boasting, and speaking as if we know it all. And can we refrain from believing that our opinions and views are not only our reality (dubious enough) but should be reality for everyone else as well. This seems to me a good place to begin.

In gassho, Rev. Oriana

The Natural Discomfort of Becoming

becoming

Tree buds in Spring sunshine.
No choice but to go on: 
pressures, bursting,
bits pushing out every which way.
Good fun?

Mind and body treated to Serene Illumination. 
Just can’t help themselves but be moved. 
It’s pretty clear that habitual control
and resistance are counter-productive.
So what’s gonna give?

Becoming is zazen’s business,
not your’s.
All you can do, dummy,
is sit still, and
relax!

Rev. Jishin.

Food for the Heart

Food to inspire, lighten and open the Heart. Articles, poetry, quotes, pictures, etc  will be entered here monthly.

No. 1.  Kanzeon  (Avalokiteshwara and many other names).  The embodiment of Great Compassion which we can know through training.  In recognising it we turn towards it , knowing instinctively its truth and worth.  From oceanic depths, a compassionate heart serves all.

Kanzeon 2