a zen buddhist monk's blog about things almost zen and telling it the way it is - zen or not (yet)

October 26, 2009

Family and earthworms

So,... the family is here!

Recently there have been a number of reports about how the 'family unit' was/is an invention of 1950's-marketing from the US and that in reality it doesn't exist - just like Santa Claus! The latter, an incredibly succesful marketing idea of a 'soft-drinks' company is nevertheless, based on some solid history, as, I suspect, is the idea of a family unit.

What I am SURE of, is that this loud, vibrant, intoxicating and all-consuming bunch of people who came to our house this weekend are the most wonderful gift life can give us today. Yes! they have taken over! Yes! we are out of our comfort zone! Yes! in one sitting they will consume more than my wife and I would in a week, and No! I no longer have possesion of the TV remote! But...

The love, the caring, the unconditional acceptance that you are 'one of us', that you 'belong', is, well, just overwhelming! I wouldn't give this up for anything in the world! Buddha renounced his family; his young wife, his new-born son, his doting father and his closest friend, but that was Buddha and we are all better for what he did. Me, I'm still getting the hang of this; I'm still learning about sacrifice and detachment, about living and dying, about letting go. I'm not ready. This may be a failing in my Buddhist advancement; in my journey toward enlightenment, but...and it's a big BUT, as a Boddhisattva, am I not supposed to renounce my own salvation from the endless cycle of suffering until I've helped EVERY single person pass over to the other shore? Yes of course I am, that's what it's about and therefore whether or not I'm a good Buddhist has to take a back seat for the moment; I have some work to do and I could not start in a better place than by observing how this unit we call "family", functions. They love, care, share, confide, comfort, encourage, protect, teach, give, give, and give. "Not mine!" I hear some of you say, and yes, that too is a reality but for now, I'm observing and commenting on my family.

What is it about us that makes us fight and war against each other because of perceived differences? Maybe our "perceptions" have just gotten stronger and stronger over the millenia and in fact we are deepining the need to show we are different rather than trying to improve our understanding that in fact we are all the same. Hate, anger, and jealousy are so much more interesting as emotions aren't they? They "fuel", they "nourish", just like a fast food restaurant does; unfortunately the result on our mental health is also similar! Watch however a group of people that love each other, interact. Watch how they think about the other one first; put their needs on hold until their loved one is "OK". Then, think about it; about how their effort in doing this was just as easy as the effort you expend in hating someone; in fact it's much less, it's liberating, it's the Buddha way! Can't we all just try it for a while? See how it feels? See that we all would be much better off and that laying claim to a piece of soil-and-rocks, that doesn't actually "belong" to any of us anyway, is a useless waste of time and energy; we'll all be under that same soil-and-rocks one day and the earthworm is not discriminating; they'll eat anyone no matter what colour or religion.

If you are priviledged enough to be in a family like mine, please remember that not everyone is and that you could go a long way to help those around you by passing on a little of your joy!

- seiun hosei joza _/|\_

October 12, 2009


Autumn really is taking hold of things now; the sky is lower, the quality of light is changing, the vines have just about finished their cycle.

We are so like those vines don't you think? We grow from something small and almost insignificant to get stronger and take shape. Some, straighter than others, some taller, but nevertheless all with the same 'raison d'ĂȘtre'.

Then we learn from other vines around us how to "be" and we do our best to copy and maybe even, "improve" on their example. Wow - how wrapped up in ourselves we are at this time, TRYING to be "something"!

Next we work hard to produce something valuable and, the more or bigger we produce our something, the more valid we believe we are. "I'm a vine and I produce grapes, in fact, that's what I am; a grape-maker." - not just a vine!

Some of us even believe that because we are a "grape-maker" from a certain country that we make grapes better than vines from any other country! Some countries even go to great lengths to convince it's vines of this and that they are even better than vines in any other grape-making country in the world! "Be proud!" we're told, "You're the best in the world."

Some of us are, by nature, a different colour than the vines around us and we tend to judge them and praise ourselves because of that fact. But, what we produce is consumed and excreted away just the same as what is produced by others.

Then finally, when our producing days are over we are stripped of all our worth and allowed to die in winter. However, life is not linear; this is not the end of a straight line. No, after dying we lie dormant for a little while and then we grow and start again; a new circle of existance, a new chance to do better. Maybe bigger grapes this time or maybe more grapes or, just maybe, we could be like the vines I see here on the hills around me and just "be" vines. Just do what we do without pomp and circumstance, without effort or prejudice, just, be vines.

We are no better or worse than anyone else; we are all born into samsara and we all have the ability to stop the cycle of birth and rebirth but, whilst we are driven by greed, anger, and ignorance, we will just keep returning to bare fruit for someone else's profit, and suffering in the harsh world we are born to.

Until we learn that we are not different from others, that we are ALL the same, our lives will continue to be cyclic and the wine we produce somewhat sour!

_/|\_ seiun hosei joza

October 08, 2009

break down the walls

Where ARE we going on this little blue planet of ours?

A lovely friend of mine describes herself as "Like a butterfly in a bottle"; flapping, turning, always bumping into the glass walls and bruising her wings. Locked in a corporate machine that pays no more attention to her than a little boy with his prey in a jam jar, she is running out of air. She has been loyal, hard-working and dedicated but none of that seems to count as now they leave her dangling; waiting for the faceless fat-cats to decide her future!

The jar of course, is in her head and she herself was the glass-blower but, she knows this. We all construct some kind of 'wall' around ourselves, initially maybe, to protect ourselves from the harsh exterior world we live in. However, eventually it also becomes the thing which locks us "in" with seemingly no escape. We have to stop "building", let's break a few things down instead. Our minds are like water in a glass; contained in a finite area. However, if we break the glass, the water can go wherever it would like to and without being diminished! It has the same volume, the same clarity, the same quality! Free of constraint, free to experience whatever it desires. Break down the walls, break the control our minds have over us, break the cycle of suffering.

Sit zazen, allow your mind to go wherever it wants; allow it to be free. Don't 'fix' on thoughts and ideas - don't build walls that may become your own prison.

_/|\_ seiun hosei joza

Holes, hearts, healing!

I met a wonderful little girl from Bolivia yesterday; full of life, smiles, laughter and mischief. She came here 4 years ago because of holes in her heart and now after a fabulously successful operation she comes back from time to time for a check up. Life, at once fleetingly precarious now seems in full bloom.

Her 'joie de vivre' is infectious and made me think about how much time we can waste worrying about things that don't exist and, even if they do, that worrying changes absolutely nothing!

_/|\_ - seiun hosei joza

October 05, 2009

Try again.

Another busy week last week and again full of emotions and experiences; one moment in control, the next not! But! Why do we feel we need to be in control? I believe in what the Tibetans say: "we grasp at everything vainly trying to put off the moment of death."

Oh yes, grasp, grasp, mine , mine, don't invade my space, why are you touching my things? "Who moved my cheese?"

I was talking to the owner of a Shiatsu school yesterday who told me about the world of Shiatsu-teaching and the lack of communication and sharing within them. Admitedly, I started the discussion by mentioning my frustration at the constant bickering in the zen community which is still prevellant. What is it about us humans that even when we decide to try to "offer" some understanding and/or compassion or comfort that we nevertheless feel it necessary to try to distinguish our "offer" as better or more valid that someone else's! Does it really matter what our lineage is? or, whose method/teaching we follow? Isn't it simply enough that we want to "help"? Does the "receiver" care who taught us or what our beliefs and convictions are as long as they feel benefitted by our actions? NO! of course they don't!

If a person enters your dojo seeking guidance, comfort, understanding, perhaps even a little compassion, do you ask them who their parents are, or who they work for, or what diplomas they have? Based on their answers, do you then decide if you will help them or not? Well, if you do, you're not a Buddhist! You do not have universal compassion. And, to my Dharma brothers and sisters; you are not respecting your 4 vows of a Bodhisattva. TRY AGAIN.

If I can, in any way, bring a little compassion or healing into someone's life by sitting zazen, laying of hands, or simply listening to them, then I am going someway toward honoring my vows.

_/|\_ - seiun hosei joza

October 01, 2009

Level of suffering...

I was told today about a presentation given yesterday at the UN here in Geneva by a man who was imprisoned and tortured for 13 years in Argentina!

My reflections:
What do I have to complain about? I've never known this level of suffering and hope never to! For me, this really puts things into perspective; why am I so wrapped up by the fact that someone was short with me on the phone today - boo hoo! Get over yourself and get on with it!

What keeps a man alive that long under such atrocious conditions? Apparently, the un-ending desire to expose to the world what terrible acts of horror these awful people performed! How can some of us turn out kind and loving and some of us hateful and nasty?

Is it true that we only have the level of suffering that we can handle? Does life really work that way? Do we continue to accumulate bad kharma until we reach the level of our potential to handle the consequences? This seems a rather dangerous equation and I prefer not to ponder it, especially as I have dear friends and lovely family members who have endured much and they don't have a bad bone in their bodies!

_/|\_ - seiun hosei joza