All the teachings of the victorious ones, all the different kinds of teachings given by the Buddha – if we condense them into one point, it is that they are the methods to tame your own mind. They bring peace to a mind that is not peaceful. They clear away the confusion, or bewilderment, in your own mind.
– Khenpo Tsultrim Rinpoche
from the book “Creation and Completion: Essential Points of Tantric Meditation”
With thanks to Just Dharma Quotes
The Yamabushi in northern Japan practice a once forbidden ancient religion. While their tradition is at risk of disappearing, it offers a way for those seeking a different path in Japan‘s society.
Walking barefoot through rivers, meditating under waterfalls and spending the nights on mountaintops – that is the way of the Yamabushi. They walk into the forest to die and be born again.
Their teachings of Shugendō 修験道 were first established 1400 years ago and peaked in popularity during the 17th century when Yamabushi visited around 90 percent of all villages in northern Japan. The monks were said to have magical powers and served as advisors to samurai and warlords.
In the late 19th century, when Japan opened itself to the west and moved from a feudal state towards industrialization, their religion was forbidden. Only the monks of Yamagata prefecture in northern Japan practiced the tradition in secret. Their isolation near the three holy mountains of Dewa helped them to save their customs.
Today, their religion is not forbidden anymore, but there aren’t many left who practice it either. Some schools have opened their doors to allow women and foreigners. They offer private courses to help maintain their sacred places:
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(c) Fritz Schumann 2018
music by Mario Kaoru Mevy
For Shunmyo Masuno, chief priest at Kenkoji, a Soto Zen temple in Yokohama, Zen is an action, not a philosophy. As Masuno explains to The Japan Times, “Zen is concerned with gyōjūzaga, four cardinal behaviors: walking, standing, sitting, lying. It’s difficult to discover the essence of Zen by simply reading philosophical books, as is popular in the West. Unless people can apply the basic, active principles of Zen to their daily lives, it’s meaningless.”
MICHAEL JOSEPH, Nonfiction.
Masuno first found a way to share these ideas on an NHK children’s program, where he introduced the ideas of Zen to elementary school children. The series was so popular that NHK published a text of his lessons. The book became a bestseller in Japan and will soon be published in English as “Zen: The Art of Simple Living.”
Illustrated by Zanna and Harry Goldhawk and translated by Allison Markin Powell, the result is a profoundly beautiful work, easy to read, encouraging deep thought and reflection, but most importantly, acting as a practical guide to Zen action.
Divided into four sections, Masuno uses simple language to explain Zen concepts like gasshō (palms pressed together, an action that “fosters a sense of gratitude”) or mitate (striving to see things in a different way), and offers advice for actively transforming these ideas into lifetime habits. His advice is supported by Zen stories and sayings. As Masuno states in the introduction, “Zen is about habits, ideas and hints for living a happy life. A treasure trove, if you will, of deep yet simple life wisdom.” It could just as easily be a description of the book itself.
“Make time for emptiness. First, observe yourself,” writes Masuno in the opening chapter. In a pattern repeated throughout the book, the one-page chapter extols an action and suggests ways and practices for realizing the action in daily life. To make time for emptiness, for example, Masuno advises using 10 minutes a day to empty the mind. As the chapter concludes: “When you are not distracted by other things, your pure and honest self can be revealed.”
“True Zen is about trying to make this short life as meaningful as possible and to search for universal truths or the immutable in this world,” Masuno explains, citing an example of spring’s first warm breeze. “People a thousand years ago felt happy to welcome the spring, and people a thousand years from now will probably feel a similar way. This is an example of a universal truth, things that are unchanging that we must actively notice and value.”d to design and to teach others as a professor at the department of environmental design at Tama Art University. “I work mainly with outdoor spaces, but this also includes interiors since the interior and the garden can’t really be separated in Japan,” he says. “When I design gardens overseas, I feel it’s a chance to explain Japanese beauty to people from other countries. If they notice things — like how the garden is an extension of the interior — and it sparks their interest in Japan, then it becomes a great kind of cultural exchange.”
For Masuno, Zen practice, cultural connections, and gardening are all interconnected, and his book reflects this with numerous points that connect to gardening. Plant a single flower, suggests one chapter. Create a small garden on your balcony or window ledge, advises another: “Within that space, try representing the landscape of your mind.”
Like gardening, another reason Masuno’s work resonates is because it clearly focuses on the process, not on any promised outcome. “In the Western world, the focus is on the result — advocates of mindfulness meditation, for example, emphasize how you’ll have clearer thoughts and less stress,” explains Masuno. “But Zen is always about the practice itself; the results are secondary. Of course Zen is important spiritually in today’s world. Two hundred years ago there was no internet, no fast trains, no jets and no cell phones … but many more people today suffer from mental illnesses and depression. The suicide rate today is at an all time high. So, despite all the modern advances, you can’t really say that our generation is more content.”
Masuno believes there’s an increasing need for Zen practice in today’s world, and he expresses thanks at the book’s success in Japanese, never expecting an English translation to follow. Unsurprisingly, Masuno has a simple goal for his book for English-reading audiences: “I hope the book will have a calming effect to bring people peace of mind, (helping them to find) a way to actively live each day thankfully and meaningfully. Zen must fundamentally carry the philosophy into practice.”
This small but powerful book shows that way.
“Zen: The Art of Simple Living” will be published on April 18 through Penguin Books’ Michael Joseph imprint.
Panoramic awareness in everyday life
In addition to the sitting form of meditation, there is the meditation practice in everyday life of panoramic awareness. This particular kind of practice is connected with identifying with the activities one is involved in. This awareness practice could apply to artwork or any other activity. It requires confidence. Any kind of activity that requires discipline also requires confidence. You cannot have discipline without confidence; otherwise it becomes a sort of torturing process. If you have confidence in what you are doing, then you have real communication with the things you are using, with the material you are using. Working that way, a person is not concerned with producing masterpieces. He is just involved with the things that he is doing. Somehow the idea of a masterpiece is irrelevant.
– Chögyam Trungpa
from the book “Ocean of Dharma: The Everyday Wisdom of Chogyam Trungpa”
With thanks to Just Dharma Quotes
Anguttara Nikaya I. 10
We say “inner world” or “outer world,” but actually there is just one whole world. In this limitless world, our throat is like a swinging door. The air comes in and goes out like someone passing through a swinging door.If you think “I breathe,” the “I” is extra. There is no you to say “I.” What we call “I” is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale. It just moves; that is all. When your mind is pure and calm enough to follow this movement, there is nothing: no “I,” no world, no mind nor body; just a swinging door.
So when we practice zazen, all that exists is the movement of the breathing, but we are aware of this movement. You should not be absent-minded. But to be aware of the movement does not mean to be aware of your small self, but rather of your universal nature, or Buddha nature. This kind of awareness is very important because we are usually so one-sided.
Our usual understanding of life is dualistic: you and I, this and that, good and bad. But actually, these discriminations are themselves the awareness of the universal existence.
“You” means to be aware of the universe in the form of you, and “I” means to be aware of it in the form of I. You and I are just swinging doors. This kind of understanding is necessary. This should not even be called understanding; it is actually the true experience of life through Zen practice.
When we become truly ourselves, we just become a swinging door, and we are purely independent of, and at the same time, dependent on everything. Without air, we cannot breathe.
Each of us is in the midst of myriads of worlds. We are in the center of the world always, moment after moment. So we are completely dependent and independent. If you have this kind of experience, this kind of existence, you have absolute independence; you will not be bothered by anything.
So when you practice zazen, your mind should be concentrated on your breathing. This kind of activity is the fundamental activity of the universal being. Without this experience, this practice, it is impossible to attain absolute freedom.”
Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind
In short, we can say that we trust ourselves completely, without thinking, without feeling, without discriminating between good and bad, right and wrong. Because we respect ourselves, because we put faith in our life, we sit.
With thanks to Gems of Wisdom – Zen Tradition
We might also ask, Given my present situation, how long should I stay with uncomfortable feelings? This is a good question, yet there is no right answer. We simply get accustomed to coming back to the present just as it is for a second, for a minute, for an hour — whatever is currently natural — without its becoming an endurance trial. Just pausing for two to three breaths is a perfect way to stay present. This is a good use of our life. Indeed, it is an excellent, joyful use of our life. Instead of getting better and better at avoiding, we can learn to accept the present moment as if we had invited it, and work with it instead of against it, making it our ally rather than our enemy.
– Pema Chödron
from the book “Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears”
With thanks to Just Dharma Quotes
Many of our escapes are involuntary: addiction and dissociating from painful feelings are two examples. Anyone who has worked with a strong addiction—compulsive eating, compulsive sex, abuse of substances, explosive anger, or any other behavior that’s out of control—knows that when the urge comes on it’s irresistible. The seduction is too strong. So we train again and again in less highly charged situations in which the urge is present but not so overwhelming. By training with everyday irritations, we develop the knack of refraining when the going gets rough. It takes patience and an understanding of how we’re hurting ourselves not to continue taking the same old escape route of speaking or acting out.
– Pema Chödron
from the book “Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change”