The Buddhist concept of “upaya,” skillful or expedient means, arose around the dawn of the common era – about 2,000 years ago. It emphasizes that even if we possess wisdom, when we want to share it with other beings and help them, it’s not so easy to do so. We need to be patient, creative, and compassionate so they will be able to hear, accept, and act on what we have to share.
This episode covers the first 200 years or so of Buddhism, beginning with the traditional account of events immediately after the Buddha’s passing. Then I describe how the ordained Sangha met to compile and codify his teachings and their code of discipline, and eventually began dividing into different sects and schools. This is a fascinating story that reflects what really mattered to early Buddhists.
Buddhist practice can be seen as consisting of two sides, and both are essential. The first side is cultivating “samadhi power,” or our ability to perceive – or be awake to – the absolute aspect of reality. The second side is working on “karma relationship,” or learning to live our daily lives in an enlightened way. If we neglect either side, our practice can stagnate or go awry.
In part 3 of my series on the famous Zen text called “Genjokoan,” written in 1233 by Japanese Zen master Eihei Dogen, I discuss the sections about seeking the Dharma, riding in a boat (recognizing self-nature is impermanent), and firewood and ash (the Great Matter of Life-and-Death).
In his very first sermon, delivered over 2,500 years ago, Shakyamuni Buddha taught the Noble Eightfold Path. In this episode I describe this teaching and each of the eight aspects of the path. I also explain why Buddhism resists being summed up even by the simple and elegant formula of the Eightfold Path, because this teaching just one “lens” among many with which to view Buddhist practice.
My second episode focused on the famous Zen text “Genjokoan,” written by Japanese Zen master Eihei Dogen in 1233. In this episode I cover "the moon reflected in water" section, and the "to study Buddhism is to study the self" section. (I'm proceeding through the essay verse by verse over the course of a few episodes.)
Part of my Buddhist Texts series, this episode focuses on a famous Zen text called “Genjokoan,” written by Japanese Zen master Eihei Dogen in 1233. Genjokoan is one of the most popular and widely studied of Dogen’s essays. In the interest of unlocking it's profound teaching for you, I’ll proceed through the essay verse by verse over the course of a few episodes.
Hello! I didn't produce an episode for you this week because I'm spending time with my parents - they live in Minnesota but are here in Oregon on their annual visit. I'll release a new episode next Thursday, Oct. 19th. Thanks for listening!
This episode finishes up my story of Shakyamuni Buddha's life. It continues with the development of the early Sangha, including the ordination of women and the establishment of a code of discipline for monastics. It also covers teachings given by the Buddha not already mentioned in earlier episodes, and some of the more dramatic and colorful stories about the Buddha and the early Buddhist community.
The Zen practice of "not-knowing" honors the absolute dimension of our lives - even as we engage in "knowing," as necessary, in the relative dimension. It involves centering ourselves in the here-and-now, and recognizing that all "knowing" is ultimately an abstraction and not reality itself. As long as we don't simply attach to not-knowing instead of knowing, the practice can actually help us be more responsible, responsive, compassionate, and effective.
In this third episode of a 3-part series on the Buddhist teaching of the Six Realms of Existence, I describe the Hungry Ghost and Human Realms. I continue offering a traditional, mythological account of the realms, followed by a section about how to practice with each realm as a particular mind state you might experience in the course of your daily life.
In this 2nd episode of a 3-part series, I cover the Asura (fighting demigod), Beast, and Hell Realms. I continue offering a traditional, mythological account of the realms, followed by a section about how to practice with each realm as a particular mind state you might experience in the course of your daily life.
In this episode, part 1 of 3, I explain the Buddhist teaching of the Six Realms of Existence, also known as the Wheel of Life, or the Wheel of Samsara. I share the rich mythology and imagery of this teaching while explaining how it can be a useful teaching for everyday life independent of a belief in literal rebirth. In this first episode I introduce the overall teaching and talk about the Heaven Realm.
This week’s episode is a Q&A session, based on listener’s questions I’ve received by email. I’ll start out with a series of questions about the Buddhist teaching of rebirth, and end with a question about how to deal with a busy mind during zazen, or seated Zen meditation.
The Buddha's very first teaching as about the Four Noble Truths: Dukkha, the Origin of Dukkha, the Cessation of Dukkha, and the Path Leading to the Cessation of Dukkha. In this episode I introduce the Four Noble Truths and how the Buddha meant us to practice with them. Then I go through each truth in detail.
In Part 1, I introduced you to the concept of work practice, how it came to be so important in Zen, the central teachings Dogen gives about it. In this episode I explain five ways you can engage your work as spiritual practice, based on Dogen’s teaching.
Zen demands that we engage our everyday activities, particularly work, as spiritual practice. Few writings describe Zen work practice as well as Zen master Dogen’s “Tenzokyokun,” or “Instructions to the Tenzo” (a tenzo being the head cook in a monastery), so I’ll use this short text to frame my presentation... its teachings about taking care, serving others, appreciating everything, and becoming one with your work are relevant to everyone, no matter what your work or life circumstances.
It's tempting, particularly in Mahayana Buddhism, to get stuck in a kind of superficial satisfaction with your zazen and practice. Of course, it's possible to get stuck in dissatisfaction as well. In this episode I walk you through four steps to deepen your zazen by using your dissatisfaction as guide for your efforts. I also compare zazen to walking on a tightrope - the instructions are simple, but actually doing it is challenging and requires experience, effort, and attention.
I continue with the story of the Theravadin precepts - particularly how the Vinaya has affected the ordination of monks and nuns, and how lay people participate in precept practice. Then we move on to China, and I talk about how the Chinese dealt with the question of how to establish an authentic Buddhist lineage while adapting the Vinaya to China, and avoiding the trap of "hinayana" practice that Mahayana sutras warned about (was the Vinaya "hinayana" practice?).