A Good Dose of Dhamma: For meditators when they are ill, by Upasika Kee Nanayon

Jizo Bosatsu in Welcoming Descent Normally, illness is something we all have, but the type of illness where you can still do your work isn’t recognised as illness. It’s called the normal human condition all over the world. Yet really, when the body is in its normal state, it’s still ill. But people generally are unaware of this illness: the deterioration of physical and mental phenomena, continually, from moment to moment.

The way people get carried away with their thoughts and preoccupations while they’re still strong enough to work — that’s real complacency. They’re no match for people lying in bed ill. People lying in bed ill are lucky because they have the opportunity to do nothing but contemplate stress and pain. Their minds don’t take up anything else, don’t go anywhere else. They can contemplate pain at all times — and let go of pain at all times, too.

Don’t you see the difference? The `emptiness’ of the mind when you’re involved in activities is `play’ emptiness, imitation emptiness. It’s not the real thing. But to contemplate inconstancy, stress, and not-selfness as it appears right inside you while you’re lying right here is very beneficial for you. Just don’t think that you’re what’s hurting. Simply see the natural phenomena of physical and mental events as they arise and pass away, arise and pass away. They’re not you. They’re not really yours. You don’t have any real control over them. Continue reading

In the moment of mindfulness, there is no suffering, by Ajahn Sumedho

Buddhist print. #endangeredarchives @bl_eapIn the moment of mindfulness, there is no suffering. I can’t find any suffering in mindfulness; it’s impossible; there’s absolutely none. But when there’s heedlessness, there is a lot of suffering in my mind. If I give in to grasping things, to wanting things, to following emotions or doubts and worries and being caught up in things like that—then there is suffering. It all begins from my grasping. But when there is mindfulness and right understanding, then I can’t find any suffering at all in this moment, now. This is about this moment here and now. It’s not about whether suffering exists as a kind of metaphysic or abstraction or theory of suffering. We’re not talking about suffering as a theory or an idea, but as an actual experience, here and now. There might be physical pain, but if we’re mindful, we reflect on this as: There is pain. It’s like this. But then we don’t create aversion around it; so there’s no suffering. If we have a fever or cancer or anything that people think is suffering, and then we’re mindful, there is no suffering in that moment. When there is heedlessness, we might worry or be caught in despair and negative states towards it. But at any moment of mindfulness and understanding, there is no suffering. Continue reading

Form is Void, by Shen Hui

White yarrow. Devon LaneOne of Shen Hui’s disciples spoke to him one day and said that other masters were teach­ing that form is not different from void and void not differ­ent from form. He’d heard Master Tsiun taking his own body as an example and re­marking that ‘this was Tsiun and at the same time not Tsiun’. Referring to his nose, ears, and each part of his body in turn, he’d considered them and rejected them all as not being Tsiun, saying that they were only fictional designations. ‘That which cannot be per­ceived,’ Tsiun had said, ‘is the void. And form exists only because the relative and the causal exist.’ Continue reading

Impermanence: The Butterfly on the Board, John Aske

Wild hedgerowWhen I was a boy, I had a headmaster who took us on nature walks. He was an entomologist and introduced us to all the birds, insects and plants on our way, and encouraged us to collect specimens.

Every early summer we put butterfly boxes along the space above the sports room and fed the caterpillars carefully. Then came the chrysalis stage, and after much waiting, the imago. The butterfly opened its iridescent wings and fluttered. It was sheer magic.

Then the boys prepared their jars of chloroform, put the butterflies in them and drew out the dead insects, hopefully with wings spread. Then they pinned them onto a board with all the previous victims—all except for one witless boy who, when the butterflies emerged, simply let them out of the windows into the garden and watched them flutter away, pursued by running boys with butterfly nets.

To me, they were much more interesting fluttering about in the rose gardens than stuck dead on a pin. I vaguely understood even then that robbing them of life also robbed them of interest. Their little lives were short enough, and to be able to enjoy that somehow set me free as well. Continue reading

Cabinet Making, by Trevor Leggett

Drop-front secretary © The Metropolitan Museum of ArtIn the inner training, we can think of our actions as preparing and fitting together hundreds of pieces to make an elaborate cabinet, which symbolises the central purpose of a directed life. They have to be carefully shaped and fitted together, then they make a beautiful cabinet. We often do not realise clearly that all our actions are of the same nature: they are bits for the ‘cabinet’ which is being made. One piece is as important as the other; some are bigger, some are smaller, but they are all important. Continue reading

Absence of Thought, by Shen-Hui

The eleven-headed form of the bodhisattva Kannon. © The Metropolitan Museum of ArtTo see the absence of thought is to have the six sense organs without stain. To see the absence of thought is to possess a knowledge inclined towards the Buddha. To see the absence of thought is to see things as they really are. To see the absence of thought is the Middle Way in its ultimate sense. To see the absence of thought is to see merits as numerous as the sands of the Ganges fully present in the moment. To see the absence of thought is to master all the dharmas. To see the absence of thought is to embrace all the dharmas.

For other teachings by Shen-Hui click here.

But for Shen-Hui Zen, as we know it today, would probably be quite different. He was one of the main students of the famous sixth patriarch Hui-neng. However, what is not very well known is that after Hui-neng’s death, the Zen patriarchship first pasted to the leader of the ‘gradual’ school of Zen Shen-hsiu. Shen-Hui went to the Chinese court and made the case for Hui-neng and the teaching of sudden awakening, and after many years had Hui-neng recognised as the sixth patriarch.

First published in the June 1989 Buddhism Now


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