Friday, February 28, 2014

Sermon for March 2, North Kitsap UU Fellowship: Community as Communion

Community as Communion

March 2, 2014
North Kitsap UU Fellowship
Poulsbo, WA

First reading: 

"There is a deep natural holiness waiting to be unlocked in our everyday encounters and relationships. By bringing more of our attention and a clearer sense of intention to our everyday interactions, our [very] conversations can become for us a spiritual practice."
  - Diane M. Millis,  Conversation: The Sacred Art
 Children’s Time:  The rope and the knots

The  Pre-sermon Reading:

But if there is ever to be a universal religion, it must be one which will hold no location in place or time; which will be infinite, like the God it will preach; whose Sun shines upon the followers of Krishna or Christ, saints or sinners, alike; which will not be the Brahman or Buddhist, Christian or Mohammedan, but the sum total of all these, and still have infinite space for development; which in its Catholicity will embrace in its infinite arms and find a place for every human being [...] It will be a religion which will have no place for persecution or intolerance in its polity, which will recognize a divinity in every man or woman, and whose whole scope, whose whole force, will be centered in aiding humanity to realize its divine nature.

September 1, 1893

The Sermon

The reading today could have been penned by a Unitarian Universalist; indeed it synthesizes in a short paragraph the one great ideal that liberal religions are capable of manifesting in the world—the reality of community as communion.   Yes, I know some of you will hiccup at the word divine, split hairs over the word God.  That is what we do in the name of analysis and personal discernment of truth, but in its essence, this work of Vivekananda’s resonates deeply with the unifying and enlivening energy or intent that is at the core of a liberal religious community.

In all the religions of the world, the role of the larger community as an integral part of an individual’s spiritual path shows up again and again.  As we begin our time together, I’d like to offer you ten voices to heed this morning; I’ll be pausing just a bit between each one so it can sink in and be savored:

1.    I take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha or I take refuge in a wise teacher, the ultimate Truth of Reality and the supportive presence of the community.

2.    When two or more or gathered, there I am amongst you.  Mathew 18:20.

3.    "To each community among you We have prescribed a Law and a way of life. If God had so willed He would have made you a single people, but His plan is to test you in what He has given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to God...” [Quran 5:48] 

4.    “Should even one's enemy arrive at the doorstep, he should be attended upon with respect. A tree does not withdraw its cooling shade even from the one who has come to cut it.” 
Mahabharata 12.146.5

5.    “It is only when we have renounced our preoccupation with "I," "me," "mine," that we can truly possess the world in which we live.
Aldous Huxley, The Perennial Philosophy

6.    “The man who wishes to know the "that" which is "thou" may set to work in any one of three ways. He may begin by looking inwards into his own particular thou and, by a process of "dying to self" --- self in reasoning, self in willing, self in feeling --- come at last to knowledge of the self, the kingdom of the self, the kingdom of God that is within. Or else he may begin with the thous existing outside himself, and may try to realize their essential unity with God and, through God, with one another and with his own being. Or, finally (and this is doubtless the best way), he may seek to approach the ultimate That both from within and from without, so that he comes to realize God experimentally as at once the principle of his own thou and of all other thous, animate and inanimate.” 
 Aldous Huxley, The Perennial Philosophy

7.    The environment is everybody. It's not strictly tribal. — Jesse Urbanic, Lummi

8.    Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.— Albert Camus

9.    A person experiences life as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. Our task must be to free ourselves from this self-imposed prison, and through compassion, to find the reality of Oneness.— Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist who developed the general theory of relativity, (1879 – 1955)

10.  Intolerance lies at the core of evil.
Not the intolerance that results
from any threat or danger.
But intolerance of another being who dares to exist.
Intolerance without cause. It is so deep within us,
because every human being secretly desires
the entire universe to himself.
Our only way out is to learn
compassion without cause. To care for each other
simply because that ‘other’ exists.
-         Rabbi Menachem Mendle

Today, I’d like to suggest that we can actually understand the layers present in religious community by looking at the stages of individual human developmental.  Such a view can offer to us an interesting model about the many ways a liberal religious tradition can come together at the level of its beating heart. 
It’s important to keep in mind that while I have assigned a period in the human life span to each of the facets of community I’ve chosen to speak about today, I believe we all continue to feel the pressures and joys of each stage when we enter into community.  So while I may be putting forth a path that seems to track only forward, in truth we go forward and we go back along the developmental spiral, flowing with experience and life lessons. 
I believe that we are always circling the idea of community as deeper communion.  If we do not eat and drink the stuff of the Other, we are merely shadows moving among the living.  That very act of breaking bread and drinking wine with others will necessarily require of us a constant spiritual digestion (and sometimes indigestion).  Unlike our physical selves that seem to be born, grow up and decline, our spiritual lives are fluid—we are tidal in our emotions, sometimes deep and sometimes shallow in our thoughts. 
It’s critical, when we are in community, to be able to accurately see how some folks are "operating" at levels different from our own.  Some folks are in the "playground" while others, trying to communicate with them, may be in the crucible or transformational stages I’ll be talking about. It's also helpful internally to see where we ourselves are at any given moment.  This basic self-awareness is the way to peaceful coexistence, both within ourselves and without.  
Or at least, maybe a little better sleep at night!
Therefore, I invite you to listen into these different developmental energies of community, taking to heart that one idea that speaks most clearly to your spiritual self today. I hope you will ponder that one “take away” idea you discover and share it with another, thus making real the communion that is our birthright as living beings.

womb: infancy and early childhood
At its most basic level, the idea of the community carries with it the energy of the living womb.  This is the ideal stage of infancy and early childhood—that delightful and innocent sense that we are surrounded by people who love and support us. 
As we age, we might be able to finally label mature forms of this energy as a kind of mercy and compassion. Did you know that nearly each sura of the Koran begins with the sentence that contains these two words—rachman and rahim, mercy and compassion, one flowing inward, the other outward and both containing the root for the word womb?  It is in this arena of community where we begin to learn the emotional feeling of those words so that we can one day return them in kind. 
Rather than seeing this stage as infantile, a fully mature adult will use this energy as one of the deepest social glues to hold together their religious community, regarding the members of their church, fellowship, sangha, temple or mosque as well as their larger community and world as people to be cherished and loved.  Leaders from both East and West have said in so many and varied words that their religion, at its core, is one of mercy and compassion.  They know the deeply supportive energy of the womb.
As we enter childhood, the community becomes the playground, the place where we begin to interact with our peers, for better or worse.  We begin to contend, to measure ourselves, to laugh together and experience those first childhood emotions of anger or frustration and friendship.  The community takes on a different aspect—sometimes darker, sometimes eagerly anticipated.  Wild romps and the straight lines of classical schooling, imaginary expeditions and breaking bread in the cacophony of many voices all begin to form us into the adults we will one day be. 
Later in life, the energy of this sort of understanding of community will fuel both the church potluck and the contemplative retreat, the impulsive sermon talk-back and the comfortable companionship of an adult education class. It can also be at the root of competitiveness, perceived slights and exclusions, a sense we might not be getting our own way or that others are more powerful and heard in the church community than ourselves.  When the stranger comes to us and then sits by themselves, never approached or befriended, they are experiencing this stage of community emotional life.  And when you offer them your hand in friendship, you help to draw them into the playground of faith.
mirror: to challenge and affirm: teenage years
We begin to learn from our paired opposites of feelings in community – belonging and loneliness, acceptance and rejection, power and powerlessness, and we come to rely on the community as a mirror for ourselves.  We dress in certain ways, speak in certain ways, our behaviors becomes acceptable or, we may “try on” ways of acting out with our eye always on the mirror of our community.  We read ourselves writ large by the social groups of our peers. 
Even well into our older years, this kind of energy continues in us to greater and lesser degrees. In our religious lives, it is the fuel behind wanting to know that we are right, what to do to be a successful member of the group, what are its rules, its codes of conduct and dress, its language and acceptable forms of humor, as well as its doctrine and creeds.  We might defend this community with overreaction or brush off its importance when it does not suit our egos. It is both walking stick and prop, bowl and the side of the bowl we bounce off of in order to grow and mature in faith.
Cooking: the active adult years (Stage one of spiritual adulthood)
During our active young adult years, the community is that which provides us our living and human-populated environment of friends and work colleagues.  It is necessarily circumspect and rather rigid.  If we are tied deeply to our job and raising our family, we may feel a vague kind of isolation from the communities that nurtured us in our younger years.  I believe this isolation actually has a purpose which is to allow us to simmer and live into the deeper meaning of the womb, the playground and the mirror.
For some during this time, community in the form of religious participation, service organizations, and the like are entered into but (unless we are the professionally religious) often at its edges and rightly so.  As Richard Rohr so eloquently points out in his book Falling Up, this is a time of high external energy for us, raising families, figuring out our working selves, getting through higher education and paying bills.  We are in fact solidifying the earlier developmental pressures of community so that we are able to hold all the shadow and light of those experiences within ourselves. In a sense, this time of cooking may in some cases actually require our absence from structures like organized religion.  But the interior work of community is still going on. This is often the time we set our hearth for a vibrant and inter-relational adult spiritual flame that may externally seem to be just embers at this stage of life.
The Crucible ...transformation (stage 2 of spiritual adulthood)
For some of us, but certainly not all, the experiences of the young adult’s interaction with communities will begin to finally cook us deeply.  Womb, playground and mirror begin to bubble with the accelerant of more complex adult interactions and we begin to test the edges of our community bowls. We see with new eyes, not just ourselves but the larger world, and begin to realize life is so much more than working, eating, sleeping, playing.  We begin to glimpse behind the veil, and ask is there more?  Are there others who know that “more” and better yet, are trying to find their way forward or simply into a better relationship with the NOW? 
Scripture becomes more dynamic, no longer just rote words.  Rules, creeds, dogmas are not reacted against so much as teased apart, like sucking the sweet flesh off the pit of a pomegranate.  The religious leader is seen as suddenly human and fallible but also much more interesting to us because she or he is calling us to the same insights, devotion and way of living they should be mirroring themselves.  We sometimes name this stage the priesthood of all believers.  Community flows at this stage, one moment bowl, the next, a bowl broken open and spilling forth into new and interesting directions in our own psyches.  We find a new depth to the womb, playground and mirror, depths that ask us to care as well as be cared for, to initiate the friendship as well as allow ourselves to be friended, that shows us our tender and immature growing edges and where we are alive and wholly awake.
reincarnation and continuance-passing the best of ourselves forward through time in the sunset years
As we bubble up and over in the time of the crucible, something else may begin to rise up like a kind of steam as we age—the need to pass our knowledge, our meaning-making and experiences forward in time, beyond us.  It is almost as if the womb-understanding of community is calling to us most strongly now but in a new way, asking us to plant seeds in the form of new communities, new ideas, and with new emotional depth.  It is our generative energy, our life energy, our creative energy finding its home in community and integrating all that has come before.  If we are lucky, we begin to see beyond our own skins and minds; our hearts becomes large and generous and inclusive, and in community we finally address the question and sometimes-fear deepest in the hearts of us all—what is this life we have been given, and really, what dies? 
And if we accept the cycles of nature around us, the transformation that is all of life, we also enter at last into that dance with the larger universe in fullness and profound joy and acceptance.  As Thomas Merton said (in paraphrase) I stood in that bright Kentucky sunshine, surrounded by people and I loved them all.  I was them.  And they were me.  This is when religion begins to flow effortlessly past the institution, the right and wrong ways of behavior, the creeds and rituals and professional religious figures—religious community itself comes alive and stands up in the midst of life and death and creativity and messiness and becomes something transparent and permeable and whole.
We enter into not just community—we are in communion at last.
To finally sum up all this heady stuff this morning, a quote from one of my favorite writers:  “Philosophy begins in wonder. And, at the end, when philosophic thought has done its best, the wonder remains.”  Alfred North Whitehead

The Blessing:
May you take the wonder and communion that is community life back into your solitary ways today, feeling more alive and connected, strengthened and whole.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Gospel of Thomas: Yeshua's Vedanta, Logion 17

Logion 17

Yeshua says,

What your own eyes cannot see,
your human ears
do not hear,
your physical hands cannot touch,
and what is inconceivable to the human
mind—that I will give to you.
                                 Translation:  Lynn Bauman 
in The Gospel of Thomas:
Wisdom of the Twin

The First Response:
Let the out-breath go,
pushing your skin large,
breaking the connection between
brain and
where the tangle of the blackberry bush,
finally loses its thorns,
where the water warms then dissipates at your touch,
where even the swirl of galaxies cannot hold you
and yet, you can still dwell
as a small brilliant flame
in your sweet beating heart.

KBN 2014

Journey through Logos:

Yeshua relentlessly calls us throughout this Gospel to be bigger than our own precious skins, to transcend the grasping and often fallible ownership of our senses, to begin to find a touchstone in the metaphoric and spacious world.  Other logion will balance this seeming other worldliness, though, asking us to begin to recognize that peace of heart and mind will require of us an ability to bring together both relative and ultimate reality.  In other words, we will be challenged to move in this world, but with the understanding that there is a deeper layer providing its foundation and ultimately, its meaning.
This logion, too, might be looked at as a call into a different kind of relationship with not just our bodies and world, but with the other beings who we “interpenetrate” with every act of breathing, seeing, touching.  We are so much larger that our own skins, and often it is in community that we begin to practice the skills of compassion and empathy—of recognizing the oneness beneath the many-ness and the unity beneath seeming duality.  Watch for other logion that will begin to soon expand upon this theme.
When we get beyond “our” bodies and minds, we will encounter a spaciousness that can definitely inform the way we approach problems, interactions with others and with the many faces of our inner world.  In a sense it is the ultimate way to put all the challenges and joys of life into perspective, catching the silence between the in-breath of self and the out-breath of expansion  and eventual annihilation.  This is the very home of the still small voice, reconciling opposites into union and yet always dynamic.

Hokmah’s Symphonic Note:

Know the Self to be sitting in the chariot, the body to be the chariot, the intellect (buddhi) the charioteer, and the mind the reins. The senses they call the horses, the objects of the senses their roads. When he (the Highest Self) is in union with the body, the senses, and the mind, then wise people call him the Enjoyer.
·                    Katha Upanishad, 1.3.3-4

As large as this ether (all space) is, so large is that ether within the heart. Both heaven and earth are contained within it, both fire and air, both sun and moon, both lightning and stars; and whatever there is of him (the Self) here in the world, and whatever is not (i. e. whatever has been or will be), all that is contained within it.
·                    Chandogya Upanishad, 8.1.3

That which is not uttered by speech, that by which the word is expressed, know That alone to be Brahman, and not this (non-Brahman) which is being worshipped. That which one does not think with the mind, that by which, they say, the mind is thought, know That alone to be Brahman, and not this (non-Brahman) which is being worshipped. That which man does not see with the eye, that by which man sees the activities of the eye, know That alone to be Brahman, and not this (non-Brahman) which is being worshipped. That which man does not hear with the ear, that by which man hears the ear’s hearing, know That alone to be Brahman, and not this (non-Brahman) which is being worshipped. That which man does not smell with the organ of smell, that by which the organ of smell is attracted towards its objects, know That alone to be Brahman, and not this (non-Brahman) which is being worshipped.

Practicing Unity

Sit for a time, breathing deeply in and out.  Then, on a mindful exhale, imagine yourself expanding out to the limits of your imagination.  Hold there and inhale, then exhale and make yourself bigger still.  Continue this until you feel impossibly large. Then, out-breath by out-breath, bring yourself back and back until your mind can rest in the center of your heart like a small flame of consciousness.  Feel what it is like to be both vast and small, bound by senses and then unbound even by this earth.  How will this kind of “knowing” affect your relationship with yourself and others?

Hokmah’s Gnosis:

To Search means to begin to be willing to explore the intuitive realms that our senses and dualistically conditioned thought processes cannot perceive on their own.

You can find Kim's entire commentary on the Gospel of Thomas in Kindle, paperback and audio formats by clicking on this link:

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Gospel of Thomas: Yeshua's Vedanta, Logion 16

Logion 16

Yeshua says,
Some of you are thinking
perhaps I have come into the cosmos
to bring it peace.
You do not yet realize
that I have come to throw it
into utter chaos
through burning, blade and battle.
Five will be living in one household.
Three will face off against two
and two against three.
Parents will rise up against children,
and children against their parents,
until at last they shall stand united
on their own feet.

                                 Translation:  Lynn Bauman in 
The Gospel of Thomas: Wisdom of the Twin

The First Response:
The mirror lies, my friend—
you see one face, but already you are pretending two,
the seer and the seen,
face to face.
You can’t confront the inside by always looking outward.
And if you could peel back that furrowed brow,
no frame could hold your many reflections then.
Maybe better to simply shut your eyes and hear them,
the should-look-likes
the opinions,
the expectations
where did they all arise?
You threw open all the windows and door in your house, and they flooded in.
At first, they promised to remodel and repaint,
fix the squeaks
recarpet the living-room floor
but you let them move in
not happily, perhaps,
but still, you fed them.
Sit here quietly beside Me a moment.
Let Me be your mirror, just for these few breaths,
and tell you,
there is a still small voice under all that hubbub.
Can you heed it?
With this single, standing reflection
you can simply recall

KBN 2014

Journey through Logos:
I think Cynthia Bourgeault was right when she commented that most of us have been schooled in the idea that Jesus was "nice".  And yet, through-out the Gospel of Thomas, Yeshua stands both firm and implacable.  We must discern Truth from the fictional constructs of our inner lives.  That requires a deep identification of those voices living under the roof of our scalp who no longer serve us.  Children and parents, friends and relations, powerful strangers and religious authorities all try to “help” us in our spiritual journey by framing our lives with the templates of their own.  It’s not meant to be mean-spirited; in fact, many of those voices rattling around in our head were put there because we loved and listened, were offered to us because we were cherished.
But Yeshua is telling us in no uncertain terms that at some point in our spiritual journey we must stand up, our heads touching the skies, our feet upheld by the ground and realize our own unique, valid and fire-tested path.  Unless we get to our feet, and, as the Buddha once said, “see the house-builder, the illusion-maker, the voices of propriety” we will never mature into a kind of faith that is wholly and totally part of our hearts and not just our heads.  We will be the fuzzy image of someone else’s encounter with the divine.
And that does not just weaken you, it also compromises one unique facet in the incredibly complex and beautiful jewel that is the Mystery.  Each of us must stand up and face the Divine fully naked and ourselves, because only in that basic duality will we begin to see our union and participation with THAT which is the greater truth.

Hokmah’s Symphonic Note:

If you see the Buddha on the road, kill him.
Zen Saying

Arjuna, seeing before him all his kinsmen arrayed in battle gear before him finally cries out to Krishna, his charioteer:  “far better would it be for me if the sons of Dhritarashtra, weapons in hand, should slay me in the battle, unarmed and resisting.  Arjuna, having spoke thus on the battlefield, cast aside his bow and arrow and sank down on his chariot-seat, his mind overcome with grief.”

The entire Gita is the answer to that moment of despair, the same moment we will all one day face if we are true to our dharma.

Bhagavad Gita 1:46-47

Practicing Unity:
When you look at your own daily choices, beliefs, habits and ideas, can you trace any of them back to an actual experience or were they instilled in you by another?  Do they serve you today?  How might you begin to stand, letting go of what no longer vibrates with the energy of your relationship with the Mystery?

Hokmah’s Gnosis:
To Search means to listen for the still, small voice of a greater unity beneath the cacophony of imposed opinions, rules and institutions.

You can find Kim's entire commentary on the Gospel of Thomas in Kindle, paperback and audio formats by clicking on this link:

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Gospel of Thomas: Yeshua's Vedanta, Logion 15

Logion 15

Yeshua says,
When the time comes
and you are able to look upon the
Unborn One,
fall prostrate in worship,
for you have found your own true Father,
(your Source and Origin) at last.

                                 Translation:  Lynn Bauman in 
The Gospel of Thomas: Wisdom of the Twin

The First Response:
Abba have I called you,
those times when I needed a compass
a listening ear.
It wasn’t wrong, to name you thus,
to cry “daddy” to the universe
and feel the sense of being
carried, held, and heard.
But sometimes
Abba teases apart in the wild wind
dancing the fir trees,
gets lost in the script
of the stars,
flung out thin and broad.
The secret beyond the name?
This silent lump in my heart and throat

KBN 2014

Journey through Logos:
When the search begins to give us glints and glimpses of the enormity of the Mystery we are pursuing, our words leave us and then, our bodies drop into the deepest attitude of prayer in awe.  I do mean the word awe here—wonder mixed with a healthy dose of fear as our egos face up and out and understand their ephemeral natures.
The emotional reaction as we face our own vast beginning place is normal and good.  We feel the deep relationship with Reality, the truest parent of all parents, the conflation of beginning and ending points that guide us toward some more than merely conceptual unity.  This kind of experience is also a lovely carrot, telling us to keep going, to keep looking because we have begun to find. 

Hokmah’s Symphonic Note:

All that is real in me is God; all that is real in God is I. The gulf between God and human beings is thus bridged. Thus we find how, by knowing God, we find the kingdom of heaven within us.
--Swami Vivekananda

Be not afraid, be not bewildered, on seeing this terrific form of Mine.  Free from fear and glad at heart, recall again my other form.  (Krishna addresses his friend and student Arjuna after showing him the full extent of divine manifestation.  Arjuna, a mighty warrior is dropped to his knees in awe.)

--Bhagavad Gita, 11:48

Practicing Unity:

Come to your knees if you are able, then fold down over them (child’s pose) or lay outspread on the floor, face down, arms out to the side in the shape of the cross.  Notice how you feel—there may be many textures to the postures of surrender.  Feel the vast Infinite around you and also holding you.  Later, share with your journal what you discovered about yourself and God.

Hokmah’s Gnosis:

To Search means finding the bravery to look into the vast Reality that is the womb from which we've truly sprung.

You can find Kim's entire commentary on the Gospel of Thomas in Kindle, paperback and audio formats by clicking on this link:

Introduction to Buddhism: The Mahayana Schools

Mahayana Buddhism

A Gentle Introduction to the Topic
using web-based resources for further study

Lighting the Chalice:

This sutra is used across the Buddhist tradition:

The Metta Sutra:  The importance of Loving Kindness

This is what should be done
        By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace:
        Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech,
        Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied,
        Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm and wise and skillful,
        Not proud or demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
        That the wise would later reprove.
Wishing: In gladness and in safety,
        May all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be;
        Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
        The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
        Those born and to-be-born —
May all beings be at ease!

Let none deceive another,
        Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
        Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
        Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
        Should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world:
        Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
        Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.
        Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down
Free from drowsiness,
        One should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.
        By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
        Being freed from all sense desires,
Is not born again into this world.

From the website:

Questions or concerns from last time?

History of Mahayana

1st Century CE

Contemporary scholarship is inclined to view the transition of Mahayana as a gradual process hardly noticed by people at the time."

The major doctrinal point that distinguishes Mahayana from Theravada is that of shunyata, or "emptiness." Shunyata is a deepening of the doctrine of anatman, or anatta, which is one of the foundational teachings of all Buddhism. According to this doctrine, there is no "self" in the sense of a permanent, integral, autonomous being within an individual existence.
The Theravada school interprets anatman to mean that an individual's ego or personality is a fetter and delusion. Once freed of this delusion, the individual may enjoy the bliss of Nirvana.
Mahayana teaches that beings and phenomena have no intrinsic existence of their own and take identity only in relation to other beings and phenomena. Shunyata also is an absolute reality that is all things and beings, unmanifested.
The ideal of Mahayana practice is the bodhisattva, "enlightenment being," who works for the enlightenment of all beings.

Important terms for tonight:

Bodhi: enlightened or awake

Bodhisattva: a realized being who stays this side of nirvana to work for the enlightenment of all beings.  best known:  Hotei, Quan-Yin

co-dependent co-arising:  Nothing exists by itself, of itself.  Web of Indra.

Shunyata: emptiness

Anatman/atman: No separate soul or individual self

Upaya: skillful means

Compassion/maitre:  Not pity; the upswell of the heart when viewing the beings caught in the delusions of this world and their minds.

Prajna paramita: Prajnaparamita is the wisdom of directly realizing the non-conceptual simplicity of all phenomena.  10 Perfections of a Bodhisattva

Maitreya:  Buddha of the future...5000 years after the end of the current Buddha’s teachings.

Schools of Buddhism that would fall under the Mahayana Umbrella:
Chinese Buddhism
• Madhyamika (San Lun, Ch.) Based on the Chinese translation of Nagarjuna's (second century) Madhyamika Karika and two other works of uncertain authorship, this lineage emphasized the notion of shunyata (emptiness) and wu (nonbeing). So rigorous was the teaching of this lineage, it declared that the elements constituting perceived objects, when examined, are really no more than mental phenomena and have no true existence.
• Yogacara Founded in the third century by Maitreyanatha and made famous by Asanga and Vasubandhu in the fourth or fifth century, this school held that the source of all ideas is vijñana ("consciousness"), which is seen as the fundamental basis of existence. Ultimate Reality is therefore only perceived but has not real existence.
Indigenous Mahayana Lineages
• T'ien T'ai Named after the mountains on which the founder Zhi Yi (d. 597 C.E.) resided, this lineage is based on a scheme of classification intended to integrate and harmonize the vast array of Buddhist scriptures and doctrines. This scheme of classification is based on the Buddhist doctrine of upaya ("skilful means"). The most important form of Buddhism for this lineage is the Mahayana devotionalism found in the Lotus Sutra.
• Avatamsaka (Hua Yen, Ch.) This lineage takes its name from the Avatamsaka Sutra, its central sacred text, and like the T'ien T'ai school is oriented towards a classification of sutras. Basic to this lineage is the assertion that all particulars are merely manifestations of the absolute mind and are therefore fundamentally the same.
• Pure Land (Amitabha) Based on the Sukhavati Vyuha ("Pure Land Sutra"), this lineage was founded in 402 C.E. by Hui Yuan. The Pure Land lineage held that the spiritual quality of the world has been in decline since its height during the lifetime of the Buddha and taught followers to cultivate through prayer and devotion a sincere intent to be reborn in the heavenly paradise of the Buddha Amitabha.
• Ch'an/Zen Its name is derived from the Sanskrit term dhyana (meditation), this lineage emphasises meditation as the only means to a spiritual awakening beyond words or thought, dispensing almost entirely with the teachings and practices of traditional Buddhism. Ch'an is thought to have been brought to China by the enigmatic South Indian monk Bodhidharma in about the year 500 C.E.
Looking More Closely at Ch’an/Zen
The Traditional Founder of Zen:  Bodhidharma

"I Know Not":

Bodhidharma was invited to visit the Emperor Wu of Liang, who was a great patron of Buddhism. The Emperor had built many monasteries, and he asked Bodhidharma what merit his generosity had earned. "No merit," said Bodhidharma. Startled, the Emperor asked Bodhidharma the supreme truth of the Dharma. "Vast emptiness; nothing holy," replied Bodhidharma. Finally, the Emperor asked, "Who are you?" "I know not," said Bodhidharma.
For other stories of Bodhidharma you can start with:
Zen is the Japanese form of the Sanskrit word dhyana, "meditation," and is a school of Buddhism which has had significant impact in Japan and Europe and America. Founded in China in the 6th century C.E. as the Ch'an school of Mahayana Buddhism, it was exported to Japan in the 12th century C.E. and gradually developed its own unique, indigenous character. The Indian scholar/monk Bodhidharma is traditionally attributed with transferring the tradition from India to China. The essence of Bodhidharma's teachings is that one does not need to study sacred texts, worship deities, or do elaborate religious rituals to achieve enlightenment. Rather, one needs to break through the boundaries of conventional thought using meditation and experience the world as it truly is in the moment. Zen maintains that this was the way the Buddha himself attained enlightenment. Zen teaches that all humans have the capacity to attain enlightenment because we all have an inherent Buddha-nature; indeed, we are all already enlightened beings, but our true potential has been clouded by ignorance. According to some Zen traditions, this ignorance is overcome through a sudden breakthrough — called satori — during meditation in which the true nature of reality, and our experience of it, is revealed. Different Zen sects, of which Rinzai and Soto are the major two, have developed various methods to achieve this enlightenment, including the practice of zazen ("just sitting" meditation). Despite the apparent simplicity of the message of Zen, training is arduous and requires guidance from a master. In Japan Zen became popular among the warrior samurai for its focus on discipline and self-control; Zen also informs the practice of various arts, such as calligraphy, painting, garden design, and archery. Beginning in the 20th century a popularized version of Zen has become spread throughout the world and influenced many in both the United States and Europe, where it has been incorporated into everything from motorcycle maintenance to cooking to professional sports.

Quick Fact Details:
·                         Formed: The roots of Zen are clouded with legend; its origins in Chan (Chinese Buddhism), its transmission to Japan, and its transition to a uniquely Japanese tradition are gradual and not identifiable until the 12th century C.E. and later.
·                         Deity: Zen includes the wide diversity of the Buddhist pantheon, but also teaches that the divine nature is in all things and that the Buddha-nature is shared by everyone. There is no concept of omnipotent, eternal deities.
For a wonderful list of recommended Zen readings follow this link:
1. In Tokyo in the Meiji era there lived two prominent teachers of opposite characteristics. One, Unsho, an instructor in Shingon, kept Buddha's precepts scrupulously. He never drank intoxicants, nor did he eat after eleven o'clock in the morning. The other teacher, Tanzan, a professor of philosophy at the Imperial University, never observed the precepts. Whenever he felt like eating, he ate, and when he felt like sleeping in the daytime he slept.
One day Unsho visited Tanzan, who was drinking wine at the time, not even a drop of which is suppposed to touch the tongue of a Buddhist.
"Hello, brother," Tanzan greeted him. "Won't you have a drink?"
"I never drink!" exclaimed Unsho solemnly.
"One who does not drink is not even human," said Tanzan.
"Do you mean to call me inhuman just because I do not indulge in intoxicating liquids!" exclaimed Unsho in anger. "Then if I am not human, what am I?"
"A Buddha," answered Tanzan.

2. The Zen master Hakuin was praised by his neighbours as one living a pure life.
A beautiful Japanese girl whose parents owned a food store lived near him. Suddenly, without any warning, her parents discovered she was with child.
This made her parents angry. She would not confess who the man was, but after much harassment at last named Hakuin.
In great anger the parent went to the master. "Is that so?" was all he would say.
After the child was born it was brought to Hakuin. By this time he had lost his reputation, which did not trouble him, but he took very good care of the child. He obtained milk from his neighbours and everything else he needed.
A year later the girl-mother could stand it no longer. She told her parents the truth - the real father of the child was a young man who worked in the fishmarket.
The mother and father of the girl at once went to Hakuin to ask forgiveness, to apologize at length, and to get the child back.
Hakuin was willing. In yielding the child, all he said was: "Is that so?"
For collection of Zen Parables, follow this link:

Koan Study:

1.      Joshu's Dog


A monk asked Joshu, a Chinese Zen master: "Has a dog Buddha-nature or not?"
Joshu answered: "Mu." [Mu is the negative symbol in Chinese, meaning "No thing" or "Nay."]

Mumon's comment: To realize Zen one has to pass through the barrier of the patriarchs. Enlightenment always comes after the road of thinking is blocked. If you do not pass the barrier of the patriarchs or if your thinking road is not blocked, whatever you think, whatever you do, is like a tangling ghost. You may ask: What is a barrier of a patriarch? This one word, Mu, is it.
This is the barrier of Zen. If you pass through it you will see Joshu face to face. Then you can work hand in hand with the whole line of patriarchs. Is this not a pleasant thing to do?
If you want to pass this barrier, you must work through every bone in your body, through every pore of your skin, filled with this question: What is Mu? and carry it day and night. Do not believe it is the common negative symbol meaning nothing. It is not nothingness, the opposite of existence. If you really want to pass this barrier, you should feel like drinking a hot iron ball that you can neither swallow nor spit out.
Then your previous lesser knowledge disappears. As a fruit ripening in season, your subjectivity and objectivity naturally become one. It is like a dumb man who has had a dream. He knows about it but he cannot tell it.
When he enters this condition his ego-shell is crushed and he can shake the heaven and move the earth. He is like a great warrior with a sharp sword. If a Buddha stands in his way, he will cut him down; if a patriarch offers him any obstacle, he will kill him; and he will be free in his way of birth and death. He can enter any world as if it were his own playground. I will tell you how to do this with this koan:
Just concentrate your whole energy into this Mu, and do not allow any discontinuation. When you enter this Mu and there is no discontinuation, your attainment will be as a candle burning and illuminating the whole universe.
Has a dog Buddha-nature?
This is the most serious question of all.
If you say yes or no,
You lose your own Buddha-nature
. is a site filled with the classic Koans of the Zen tradition.
Some of the Formal Arts of Zen include:
Flower arranging:



Tea Ceremonies

Two Classic Mahayana Sutras
Heart Sutra:
Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, meditating deeply on Perfection of Wisdom, saw clearly that the five aspects of human existence are empty*, and so released himself from suffering.  Answering the monk Sariputra, he said this:
Body is nothing more than emptiness, 
emptiness is nothing more than body. 
The body is exactly empty, 
and emptiness is exactly body.
The other four aspects of human existence -- 
feeling, thought, will, and consciousness -- 
are likewise nothing more than emptiness, 
and emptiness nothing more than they.
All things are empty: 
Nothing is born, nothing dies, 
nothing is pure, nothing is stained, 
nothing increases and nothing decreases.
So, in emptiness, there is no body, 
no feeling, no thought, 
no will, no consciousness. 
There are no eyes, no ears, 
no nose, no tongue, 
no body, no mind. 
There is no seeing, no hearing, 
no smelling, no tasting, 
no touching, no imagining. 
There is nothing seen, nor heard, 
nor smelled, nor tasted, 
nor touched, nor imagined.
There is no ignorance, 
and no end to ignorance. 
There is no old age and death, 
and no end to old age and death. 
There is no suffering, no cause of suffering, 
no end to suffering, no path to follow. 
There is no attainment of wisdom, 
and no wisdom to attain.
The Bodhisattvas rely on the Perfection of Wisdom, 
and so with no delusions, 
they feel no fear, 
and have Nirvana here and now.
All the Buddhas, 
past, present, and future, 
rely on the Perfection of Wisdom, 
and live in full enlightenment.
The Perfection of Wisdom is the greatest mantra. 
It is the clearest mantra, 
the highest mantra, 
the mantra that removes all suffering.
This is truth that cannot be doubted. 
Say it so:
Which means...
gone over, 
gone fully over. 
So be it!

From the website:

Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra
Sometimes referred to as the "crown jewel of the Mahayana" and regarded as the main Sutra on non-duality. In the sutra, the layman bodhisattva Vimalakirtu expounds the doctrine of emptiness in depth to the Buddha's main disciples. The sutra is notable for the liveliness of its episodes and frequent touches of humor, rarities in a religious work of this type. Because the sutra centers on a lay person, and because of its enduring literary appeal, it has been particularly popular among lay Buddhists in China, Japan, and the other Asian countries where Mahayana doctrines prevail, and has exercised a marked influence on literature and art.
A Talk On The Vimalakirti Sutra
Hisamatsu Shin'ichi Preface
Vimalakirti's Gate of Nonduality
John Daido Loori, Roshi - Dharma Discourse


Excerpt from the sutra:

Maitreya, you should understand that there are two types of bodhisattvas. What are these two types? The first type loves varied phrases and literary embellishment. The second is not afraid of deeper principles and is able to enter into the true meaning. If there are those who love varied phrases and literary embellishments, you máy be sure that they are beginners in the bodhisattva way. But if there are those who, approaching these extremely profound sutras, with their teachings on nondefilement and nonattachment, are not timid or fearful but can enter into the meaning and, having heard the sutras, with pure minds will accept, uphold, read, and recite them and practice them as the Law directs, you may be sure that they have been practicing the way for a long time.

Étienne Lamotte translates these two as Beginner Bodisattvas, and Veteran Bodhisattvas. Sometimes the beginner just latches on to the surface-layer of a given Sutra, and the Buddhadharma in general; but, like in the Parable of the Sower wherein the bodhi-seeds just remains on the surface, they don’t take root, and something in their life comes along and gobbles them up. The Veteran Bodhisattva, on the other hand, takes great care and relishes in the gnosis of the Buddhadharma—they understand the profound nature of these texts and take great measures to assure that they are promulgated and not defiled in any way, shape, or manner.

“Again, Maitreya, there are two attitudes among those called beginners that prevent them from getting a firm grasp on these extremely profound teachings. What are these two? First is that of persons who, when they hear some profound sutra they have not heard before, are alarmed and timorous and, giving way to doubt, cannot bring themselves to comply with it. In their disbelief they speak slanderously of it, saying, ‘I have never heard this before! Where does it come from?’ Second is that of persons who, though there are those who guard, uphold, understand, and expound profound sutras of this type, are unwilling to associate closely with them, to offer them alms or treat them with respect, but at times may even speak of their faults before others. Where you find these two attitudes, you may be sure the persons are beginners in the bodhisattva way. They do injury to themselves and cannot train their minds to accept the profound teachings.

The beginner, being stupefied over the nature of these texts just shrugs them off…sometimes even speaking slanderously against them. Also, they neglect to show courtesy to those Veteran Bodhisattvas; instead they are disrespectful and oftentimes reap great ridicule and shame upon them. As the sutra states, these beginner-mindsets can bring great harm to aspiring adepts.

“Again, Maitreya, there are two attitudes among the bodhisattvas who, though they believe and understand the profound teachings, yet do injury to themselves and are unable to accept the truth of birthlessness. What are these two? First is that of persons who are contemptuous of beginner bodhisattvas and will not teach or enlighten them. Second is that of persons who, though they understand the profound teachings, seize upon surface appearances and make distinctions. These are the two attitudes.”

On the other side of the bodhi-coin, some of the Veteran Bodhisattvas can become quick-tempered and even contemptuous of the lackadaisical antics and attitudes of the beginning adepts…in so doing, they can reap great harm upon their young and still-developing minds. Also, the Veteran, too, can become lackadaisical—thinking that they have already attained annuttara-samyak-sambodhi, when in fact they are far from it…a good indication of this is when they still make mind-discriminations.

Maitreya assures the Blessed One that he will steer well-clear of these defilements by faithfully and resiliently upholding the Buddhadharma for all future generations. Following his lead, the rest of the bodhisattvas present in the assembly also promise to uphold the Buddhadharma to the best of their abilities. In closing, the Buddha addresses Ānanda and requests that he, too, “accept and up-hold this sutra and propagate it far and wide.” Ānanda says, “Sure-thing—what shall I call it?” and, of course, this sutra traditionally ends with the “naming of the new sutra”; the Blessed One replies that it shall hereafter be named and referred to as, “The Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti.” (Thurman)

Poetry/observations from the Chan and  Zen tradition:

Look for Buddha outside your own mind, 
and Buddha becomes the devil. 

Where beauty is, then there is ugliness;
where right is, also there is wrong.
Knowledge and ignorance are interdependent;
delusion and enlightenment condition each other.
Since olden times it has been so.
How could it be otherwise now?
Wanting to get rid of one and grab the other
is merely realizing a scene of stupidity.
Even if you speak of the wonder of it all,
how do you deal with each thing changing?

Nobly, the great priest
deposits his daily stool 
in bleak winter fields 

Hell is not punishment, 
it's training. 
Shunryu Suzuki

 The most important thing is to find out
what is the most important thing. 
Shunryu Suzuki

Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water. 
The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken. 
Although its light is wide and great, 
The moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide. 
The whole moon and the entire sky 
Are reflected in one dewdrop on the grass. 

Those who see worldly life as an obstacle to Dharma
see no Dharma in everyday actions. 
They have not yet discovered that 
there are no everyday actions outside of Dharma.

Spring Rain
Matsuo Basho (c. 1680)
clr gif

Spring rain
leaking through the roof
      dripping from the wasps’ nest.
(trans. Robert Hass)

Spring Air
Matsuo Basho (c. 1680)
clr gif

Spring air —
woven moon
      and plum scent.
(trans. Lucien Stryk)
clr gif
Four Haiku
Matsuo Basho (c. 1680)
clr gif

A hill without a name
Veiled in morning mist.

The beginning of autumn:
Sea and emerald paddy
Both the same green.

The winds of autumn
Blow: yet still green
The chestnut husks.

A flash of lightning:
Into the gloom
Goes the heron’s cry.
(trans. Geoffrey Bownas And Anthony Thwaite)

The above from:

Mindfulness Meditation:  An introduction to just sitting
Take a seat that is tall and relaxed. Be sure your pelvis is in neutral, shoulders back and down.  Hands can rest where they are most comfortable or you can take the cosmic mudra.  Eyes are cast down and open. The practice is simply to remain present to all sensations, bringing yourself back to the present when your mind disengages with thoughts.  Be gentle with yourself; stay alert like a scientist watching over an important experiment.

Chant:  Heart Sutra

Dialogue about the process, what came up

Hands held in the circle

Chalice Extinguished