Dharma Drum: The Life and Heart of Chan Practice Paperback Here is an ideal guide to the practice of Chan Buddhism by a great modern teacher. Part One presents Master Sheng Yen’s lively, anecdotal account of the history and main principles of the Chan tradition, along with his careful instructions for meditation. Part Two consists …View full post
by Wayne Ren-Cheng The Universe is not wise, it is not compassionate, and it is certainly not fair. The Universe only acts from the causal conditions that occur within it. You only have to view the Universe through a lens that strips away delusion and personal perceptions to recognize these truths. This not only leads …View full post
ONCE upon a time a king had an Elephant named Girly-face. The Elephant was called Girly-face because he was so gentle and good and looked so kind. “Girly-face never hurts anybody,” the keeper of the Elephants often said. Now one night some robbers came into the courtyard and sat on the ground just outside the …View full post
Plum Village, France June 28, 2015 To all Plum Village Practice Centers, To all Practice Centers and Sanghas World Wide, To our Dear Beloved Friends, We are happy to report that Thay’s health has improved greatly since he returned to his Plum Village Hermitage in early April. Every day Thay has been out in nature, …View full post
Once upon a time, the Enlightenment Being was born as the son of the King and Queen of Benares. On the day of his naming, 800 fortune tellers were invited to the palace. As presents, they were given whatever they desired to make them happy for the moment. Then they were asked to tell the …View full post
Permanent link to this article: http://www.thebuddhacenter.org/2015/07/27/fear-and-fearless/
Dharma Drum: The Life and Heart of Chan Practice Paperback
Here is an ideal guide to the practice of Chan Buddhism by a great modern teacher. Part One presents Master Sheng Yen’s lively, anecdotal account of the history and main principles of the Chan tradition, along with his careful instructions for meditation. Part Two consists of 180 of his gemlike aphorisms and sayings that serve as inspirations to spiritual practice. The book will appeal to beginners as well as experienced students
Permanent link to this article: http://www.thebuddhacenter.org/2015/07/27/book-suggestion-from-the-buddha-center/
Permanent link to this article: http://www.thebuddhacenter.org/2015/07/16/dhammapada-verse-76-revealing-treasure/
by Wayne Ren-Cheng
The Universe is not wise, it is not compassionate, and it is certainly not fair. The Universe only acts from the causal conditions that occur within it. You only have to view the Universe through a lens that strips away delusion and personal perceptions to recognize these truths. This not only leads to the realization that bad things happen to good people, but that good things happen to bad people. You can be the best Buddhist you can possibly be and you will still encounter moments of suffering in life the Awakened One fully realized in the Four Ennobling Truths. You can be the worst type of human being possible and still encounter moments of joy and wonder that doesn’t seem deserved. This too is an aspect of the first of the Four Ennobling Truths. Doesn’t hardly seem fair . . . does it?
Ryugen Fisher, the Venerable Shi Shen Long, over his lifetime (and this continues today with his students and their students) created a list of Life Lessons that arose from his own experiences, or the experiences of others. I often refer to the list for insight, inspiration and a dose of spiritual humor. Rule #11, The Rule of Expectations, offers a view of fairness: Expecting life to treat you “fairly” because you’re a good person is like expecting the bull NOT to charge at you because you’re a vegetarian. Like the bull the Universe doesn’t care WHAT you are, it responds only to HOW you are.
Not sure where this perception of a fair Universe arose but it is believed by many who’ve been acculturated to the notion that the world is supposed to be inherently fair. You only have to look around to prove this belief is a delusion. Students struggle for high GPAs in high school and college only to find themselves without job opportunities. Some business people engage in illegal and immoral activities and become unimaginable wealthy. People live lives of exemplary compassion only to be struck down by genetic diseases. Innocent children are abused and abandoned. The Universe rolls along with human beings evolving within it, but we aren’t steering it. We have our role as part of its motive power but it also needs the bad weather, steep hills and earthquakes because they are just as important to the workings of the machine. So what if those things make our lives difficult, the machine is just the machine. This means from our perspective that the ideal of fairness is a delusion.
There is no compassion, wisdom or fairness inherent in the Universe. There is also no vengeance, ignorance, or bad intent inherent in the Universe. The perception of the Universe meting out cosmic justice or punishment is the result of a misunderstanding of the reality of HOW it works. What happens is causally conditioned by all the phenomena taking place each moment. There is no doubt you can take actions that lead to unwholesome consequences . . . which is why a Buddhist looks to the Three Pure Precepts (cease to do harm, do only good, do good for others) to guide us way from such actions. You don’t have any control over unwholesome decisions made by others, the arising of new diseases, or what the rest of the causal process of the Universe is doing. When bad things do happen you must avoid attaching to them the perception that it was because of something you did, and focus on practicing ways to make situations better. By realizing that the “fair Universe” concept is a delusion, and that you are not 100% of the karmic consequences, you will come to realize . . . and here comes the good part . . . that you have the ability to engage in wholesome transformation of your self and the global society you are interconnected with, and interdependent on.
You are not 100% of the karmic consequences . . . still, what you do matters. Life’s circumstances can sneak up on you. When you develop an awareness of the conditions under which difficulties arise, and that chances are there was no intent to directly harm you, though is may feel so, you become better prepared to accept them and take appropriate actions. Your actions do play a significant role in future experiences but your’s are a part of them, not the whole of them. Not only what you do matters, but what you control over what you do.
You are part of a causal web and the rest of the Universe is too. The concept of “personal karma”, while it has its validity, is an ideal not encompassing enough to recognize the broader reality of karmic influence. Causality, what makes karma a reality, is how the Universe reveals its neutrality. The Universe doesn’t add a view, an intent, an action, or any effort to make things happen. You are not a target of it. It is egoistic for you to believe things happen TO us, or that they happen FOR us. They happen as a result of nonlinear consequences of causality and you just happen to have a role in a particular experience.
The realization that you are part, but not the whole of the karmic web is actually empowering. It is why you engage in becoming the best possible you, the best possible example of a wise and compassionate human being. The “small” role as one thread interdependent on the threads of others whose intent and actions mesh with your own is how incremental wholesome transformations happen. The web becomes larger and the probability of snaring positive consequences increases exponentially. Things may not happen TO us, or FOR us, but they do happen BECAUSE of us. We are each unique expressions of the Universe and our actions within it have unique consequences.
With the knowledge that you play a role, no matter how small, comes the responsibility for your actions. What you do matters . . . negative, positive or neutral . . . how you act, how you respond is what makes personal practice so important. It is through intent and action that a sense of fairness will arise. Fairness arises as a result of awareness, compassion, generosity and acceptance.
You occupy a part of the karmic web and so have a responsibility to the strand you control. You must develop both mindfulness and awareness so you can overlay the “personal” with the “global” karma and find ways to improve both. You accept that there will be situations that you can, and can’t control. You learn to take wise actions to be the cause and effect of positive transformation whenever, and where ever the causal Universe offers you the opportunity.
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ONCE upon a time a king had an Elephant named Girly-face. The Elephant was called Girly-face because he was so gentle and good and looked so kind. “Girly-face never hurts anybody,” the keeper of the Elephants often said.
Now one night some robbers came into the courtyard and sat on the ground just outside the stall where Girly-face slept. The talk of the robbers awoke Girly-face.
“This is the way to break into a house,” they said. “Once inside the house kill any one who wakens. A robber must not be afraid to kill. A robber must be cruel and have no pity. He must never be good, even for a moment.”
Girly-face said to himself, “Those men are teaching me how I should act. I will be cruel. I will show no pity. I will not be good–not even for a moment.”
So the next morning when the keeper came to feed Girly-face he picked him up in his trunk and threw the poor keeper to the ground, killing him.
Another keeper ran to see what the trouble was, and Girly-face killed him, too.
For days and days Girly-face was so ugly that no one dared go near. The food was left for him, but no man would go near him.
By and by the king heard of this and sent one of his wise men to find out what ailed Girly-face.
The wise man had known Girly-face a long time. He looked the Elephant over carefully and could find nothing that seemed to be the matter.
He thought at last, “Girly-face must have heard some bad men talking. Have there been any bad men talking about here?” asked the wise man.
“Yes,” one of the keepers said, “a band of robbers were caught here a few weeks ago. They had met in the yard to talk over their plans. They were talking together near the stall where Girly-face sleeps.”
So the wise man went back to the king. Said he, “I think Girly-face has been listening to bad talk. If you will send some good men to talk where Girly-face can hear them I think he will be a good Elephant once more.”
So that night the king sent a company of the best men to be found to sit and talk near the stall where Girly-face lived. They said to one another, “It is wrong to hurt any one. It is wrong to kill. Every one should be gentle and good.”
“Now those men are teaching me,” thought Girly-face. “I must be gentle and good. I must hurt no one. I must not kill any one.” And from that time on Girly-face was tame and as good as ever an Elephant could be.
Permanent link to this article: http://www.thebuddhacenter.org/2015/07/01/the-elephant-girly-face/
Plum Village, France
June 28, 2015
To all Plum Village Practice Centers,
To all Practice Centers and Sanghas World Wide,
To our Dear Beloved Friends,
We are happy to report that Thay’s health has improved greatly since he returned to his Plum Village Hermitage in early April. Every day Thay has been out in nature, enjoying the blossoms, listening to the birds and resting at the foot of a tree. Thay enjoys lying in his hammock next to the running creek, in the fresh cool of the bamboo grove he planted more than thirty years ago.
Doctors and nurses continue to visit Thay, and he receives physiotherapy, massage and acupuncture daily. The team of attendants continue to care for Thay and support his needs around the clock.
Despite his advanced age, Thay has been making remarkable progress.
One day, Thay decided for himself that he was ready to start swallowing solid food, and directed his attendants to prepare an apple, then a lemon and then an avocado. Thay enjoyed each bite with great delight, chewing each mouthful at least forty times before swallowing. Everyone was very surprised. Thay’s mindfulness, concentration and joy to really savor the food was remarkable. Since that day, with great concentration and determination, Thay has been able to enjoy feeding himself. The sisters have been investing their love and creativity in preparing diverse nutritious healthy food for Thay, which he eats with delight. As soon as Thay was able to nourish himself with several wholesome meals a day, he surprised all the doctors by successfully removing his own feeding tube, without any complications. Thay smiled, and we all smiled.
More recently, Thay has begun to develop his vocalisation, joining the attendants when they hum or sing. The first time this happened, one of the sisters was chanting in Vietnamese the name of Avalokita, the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion: Nam Mo Bo Tat Quan The Am. Thay suddenly pronounced the final sound “Âm” (pron. “um”) clearly and on cue. Miraculously, the word “Âm” actually means “sound”. Thay looked at those around him, his eyes gleaming, as if to say “everything is possible”. It was a very moving moment, and the attendants all gathered to continue to chant with Thay. Since that very first “um”, Thay now enjoys singing and humming every day, all the familiar Plum Village tunes in Vietnamese, English and French. At this point, Thay is able to voice the melody and, once in a while, he can form a word. He raises his arm in such a way as to express the meaning of each line, and has great joy and surprise every time he is able to produce a clear and accurate word.
Thay’s therapists have been struck by his extremely strong will to recover, and have pointed out to us that this is the most important factor in his rehabilitation. Thay has been very determined to train himself so he can recover his physical strength and regain his balance and posture. Thay is clear about what he wants to do, and what he does not want to do. He is now able to sit by himself, beautifully upright. In the last three weeks Thay has wanted to start walking, even though his right side remains paralysed. With the support of one attendant behind, and one at his right leg to help move it forward, Thay now practices walking meditation in the garden, several times a day. We can feel Thay’s delight and freedom at each step. Even though it takes great effort, we can see that, for Thay, each step is a step of victory, an affirmation of life and joy to be alive on this beautiful Mother Earth.
From time to time the whole monastic community of 150 monks and nuns has come to practice walking meditation with Thay. Last week we could feel Thay’s joy to see his disciples, and his happiness to lead the sangha in walking meditation. Thay pointed to the blue sky, the swaying bamboo, the smile of a brother, directing us to enjoy the present moment. Thay’s courage, determination and joy, despite his physical limitations, was a clear teaching for all those present as we walked behind Thay with our two healthy feet. With every step, Thay demonstrated that he will continue to practice no matter what the conditions. Thay was affirming that he would never desert the Path. He was encouraging us to stay on the path, and enjoy the wonders of life.
We would like to thank everyone for offering your loving support to Thay and the sangha through the past months. We are deeply grateful for your energy of compassion and prayers, and for your commitment to continue to practice mindfully and deeply for Thay. A special thank you to those who have sent us beautiful children’s drawings for Thay’s room and those who have sent us heartfelt donations to support Thay’s care.
The lotuses are blooming in our ponds, the plums are ripening in our orchards, and we are preparing our hamlets to welcome our guests for the Summer Retreat, around 800 people each week, for a whole month. The Summer Retreat is one of Thay’s favorite times of year. We will welcome families and children, and the Dharma Talks will be given by Thay’s continuation in the form of his Senior Dharma Teachers. Under the shade of the oak trees, bamboo groves and verandas in the late afternoon sun, we will see many circles of friends sharing deeply with one another. Hearts will be open, tears will be shed, as the sound of the bell reverberates.
Nine years ago Thay was asked,
“You will be 80 this year. Do you plan to retire as a spiritual teacher at any point?”
This is the answer he gave:
In Buddhism we see that teaching is done not only by talking, but also by living your own life. Your life is the teaching, is the message. And since I continue to sit, to walk, to eat, to interact with the Sangha and people, I continue to teach, even if I have already encouraged my senior students to begin to replace me in giving Dharma talks. In the last two years, I have asked Dharma teachers, not only in the monastic circle but also in the lay circle, to come up and give Dharma talks. Many of them have given wonderful Dharma talks. Some Dharma talks have been better than mine. I see myself in my continuation, and I will not retire. I’ll continue to teach, if not by Dharma talks then in my way of sitting, eating, smiling, and interacting with the Sangha. I like to be with the Sangha. Even if I don’t give a Dharma talk, I like to join walking meditation, sitting meditation, eating in mindfulness and so on. So don’t worry. When people are exposed to the practice, they are inspired. You don’t need to talk in order to teach. You need to live your life mindfully and deeply. Thank you.
These inspiring words are our compass as we prepare to lead retreats for thousands of people in the coming months: here in Plum Village this Summer, at the EIAB in Germany in August, and on the Miracle of Mindfulness Tour of the United States this fall. Please join us.
May you cherish the presence of those you love, and enjoy each step together.
With love and trust,
The Monks and Nuns of Plum Village
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Once upon a time, the Enlightenment Being was born as the son of the King and Queen of Benares. On the day of his naming, 800 fortune tellers were invited to the palace. As presents, they were given whatever they desired to make them happy for the moment. Then they were asked to tell the fortune of the newborn prince. This was so they could find a good name for him.
One of the fortune tellers was an expert in reading the marks on the body. He said, “My lord, this is a being of great merit. He will be king after you.”
The fortune tellers were very clever. They told the king and queen whatever they wanted to hear. They said, “Your son will be skilled in five weapons. He will become famous as the greatest master of all five weapons throughout India.” Based on this, the king and queen named their son ‘Prince Five-Weapons’.
When the prince turned 16, the king decided to send him to college. He said, “Go, my son, to the city of Takkasila. There you will find a world famous teacher. Learn all you can from him. Give him this money as payment.” He gave him a thousand gold coins and sent him on his way.
The prince went to the world famous teacher of Takkasila. He studied very hard and became his best pupil. When the teacher had taught him all he knew, he gave the prince a special graduation award. He gave him five weapons. Then he sent him back to Benares.
On his way home he came to a forest which was haunted by a monster. The local people warned Prince Five-Weapons, “Young man, don’t go through the forest. There is a monstrous demon called Sticky-Hair living there. He kills everyone he sees!”
But the prince was self-confident and fearless like a young lion. So he pushed on into the forest, until he came to the dreadful monster. He was as tall as a tree, with a head as big as the roof of a house and eyes as big as dishes. He had two big yellow tusks sticking out of his gaping white mouth filled with ugly brown teeth. He had a huge belly covered with white spots, and his hands and feet were blue.
The monster roared and growled at the prince, “Where are you going in my forest, little man? You look like a tasty morsel to me. I’m going to gobble you up!”
The prince had just graduated from college and had won the highest award from his teacher. So he thought he knew just about everything, and that he could do just about anything. He replied, “Oh fierce demon, I am Prince Five-Weapons, and I have come on purpose to find you. I dare you to attack me! I will kill you easily with my first two weapons – my bow and poison-tipped arrows.”
Then he put a poison arrow in his bow and shot it straight at the monster. But the arrow just stuck fast to his hair, like glue, without hurting him at all. Then the prince shot, one after another, all the rest of his 50 poison-tipped arrows. But they also stuck fast to the hair of the one called Sticky-Hair.
Then the beast shook his body, from ugly rooftop-sized head to blue coloured feet. And all the arrows fell harmlessly to the ground.
Prince Five-Weapons drew his third weapon, a 33-inch-long sword. He plunged it into his enemy. But it just stuck fast in the thick coat of sticky hair. He threw his fourth weapon, his spear, at the monster. But this too just stuck to his hair.
Next he attacked with the last of his five weapons, his club. This also stuck fast onto Sticky-Hair.
Then the prince yelled at him, “Hey you, monster – haven’t you ever heard of me, Prince Five-Weapons? I have more than just my five weapons. I have the strength of my young man’s body. I will break you in pieces!”
He hit Sticky-Hair with his right fist, just like a boxer. But his hand just stuck to the hairy coat, and he couldn’t remove it. He hit him with his left fist, but this too just stuck fast to the gooey mess of hair. He kicked him with his right foot and then his left, just like a martial arts master. But they both stuck onto him like his fists. Finally he butted him as hard as he could with his head, just like a wrestler. But, lo and behold, his head got stuck as well.
Even while sticking to the hairy monster in five places, hanging down from his coat, the prince had no fear.
Sticky-Hair thought, “This is very strange indeed. He is more like a lion than a man. Even while in the grasp of a ferocious monster like me, he does not tremble with fear. In all the time I’ve been killing people in this forest, I’ve never met anyone as great as this prince. Why isn’t he afraid of me?”
Since Prince Five-Weapons was not like ordinary men, Sticky-Hair was afraid to eat him right away. Instead he asked him, “Young man, why aren’t you afraid of death?”
The prince replied, “Why should I be afraid of death? There is no doubt that anyone who is born will definitely die!”
Then the Enlightenment Being thought, “The five weapons given to me by the world famous teacher have been useless. Even the lion-like strength of my young man’s body has been useless. I must go beyond my teacher, beyond my body, to the weapon inside my mind – the only weapon I need.”
The prince continued speaking to Sticky-Hair, “There’s one small detail, oh monstrous one, I haven’t told you about yet. In my belly is my secret weapon, a diamond weapon you cannot digest. It will cut your intestines into pieces if you are foolish enough to swallow me. So if I die – you die! That’s why I’m not afraid of you.”
In this way the prince used his greatest inner strength in a way Sticky-Hair could easily understand. He knew this greatest of all weapons, the one inside his mind, was the precious diamond gem of his own intelligence.
Sticky-Hair thought, “No doubt this fearless man is telling the truth. Even if I eat as much as a pea-sized tidbit of such a hero, I won’t be able to digest it. So I will let him go.” Fearing his own death, he set Prince Five-Weapons free.
He said, “You are a great man. I will not eat your flesh. I let you go free, just like the moon that reappears after an eclipse, so you may shine pleasantly on all your friends and relatives.”
The Enlightenment Being had learned from his battle with the monster Sticky-Hair. He had learned the only worthwhile weapon is the intelligence inside, not the weapons of the world outside. And with this diamond weapon he also knew that destroying life brings only suffering to the killer.
In gratitude, he taught the unfortunate demon. He said, “Oh Sticky-Hair, you have been born as a murderous blood sucking flesh eating demon because of unwholesome deeds in your past. If you continue killing in this way, it will lead only to suffering for you – both in this life and beyond. You can only go from darkness to darkness.
“Now that you have spared me, you won’t be able to kill so easily. Hear this – destroying life leads to misery in this world, and then rebirth in a hell world, or as an animal or a hungry ghost. Even if you were lucky enough to be reborn as a human being, you would have only a short life!”
Prince Five-Weapons continued to teach Sticky-Hair. Eventually the monster agreed to follow the Five Training Steps. In his way he transformed him from a monster into a friendly forest fairy. And when he left the forest, the prince told the local people about the change in the one-time demon. From then on they fed him regularly and lived in peace.
Prince Five-Weapons returned to Benares. Later he became king. Finally he died
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