Why is it so difficult to study? It's a deep aspect of human nature, but most of us are educated to simply learn facts and repeat them. We can take responsibility for our learning by engaging in solitary sessions where we probe and question, cultivating a mind of inquiry.
What does it mean to start fresh? If we want to make a new start, the first step is to open our eyes and see what we have created with our actions, speech, and thoughts. We need to take responsibility for what we have created with our lives, then we can let go and truly begin anew. It's helpful to follow this fresh start with a vow, a pledge that will ground us and give us direction. Letting go of the old and setting a direction for the future allows to go forward with joy, hope, and determination.
What happens when we die? This is one of life's most puzzling questions, but is our preoccupation with death any different from our preoccupation with what's for dinner or our dentist appointment next week? It's a preoccupation with something other than where life is happening.
The concept of karma is often misunderstood - and therefore misused - in the West. Karma is not retribution or punishment, it is simply cause and effect. But understanding karma deeply has profound implications for how we lead our lives and affect those around us.
One of the main reasons people embark on the spiritual path is to identify what's causing their pain. Oddly enough, when we try to find our pain we often can't put our finger on it, and this is because our pain comes from an idea.
Distance and separation harden the heart, making suffering inevitable. Names, labels, hatred, criticism, everywhere we look, we see how separation breeds pain and suffering. But when that distance is closed, something very profound takes place.
We all want to maintain control over our lives: our relationships, our work, our health, even our moods. We want to know where we're going and what's going to happen when we get there. Letting going of knowing is hard because we think that if we don't know where we¿re going, we won't get there.
Pick up a newspaper or turn on the television, and you're bound to see suffering. And it's not just on the news; we struggle with great and small issues all the time, as do our families and friends. How do we respond to the cries of the world? There's so much suffering that it often seems easier to retreat into distance and cold-heartedness, but each of us is born with the ability to give.
It's very difficult to experience life directly. Our conditioning and ordinary way of perceiving often creates a haze that prevents accurate perception. One of the most painful aspects of this fog is our feeling of separation; as a result of this misapprehension we follow after things and lose ourselves. The truth is that our inherent nature is one of unity.
The 21st century is a critical time for our environment. Global warming, pollution, deforestation: the problems are large, and it's easy to feel helpless. Yet it's important not to get lost in despair; we can be serious about environmental problems and still be joyful. This ability is crucial not only for dealing with the environment, but also with spiritual practice.
Buddha taught that all beings have the capacity to gain freedom - and that only each one of us can do this for ourselves. No one will come to save us. Instead, we must trust ourselves, getting in touch with real silence, listening with our whole bodies and minds, and seeking the true dharma’s guidance.
Conflict exists not only between nations and political parties; it's also battling with our neighbor, bickering with the person in the next cubicle, struggling with our spouse. Whatever the size of the conflict, it's clear that violence never solves conflict. So how can we end conflict?
Often our minds seem like prisons we can't escape. Even when we are worn out by our stories and repetitious thoughts, we continue to think and act in ways that keep us caged. Holding onto these patterns takes a tremendous amount of energy, and that's why we get worn out. Meditation practice lets the mind come to rest, and allows us to experience our lives with freshness and fluidity.
Practice requires and cultivates a profound trust in ourselves. Delusion lies in a sense of separation, a sense that something is hidden from us. Yet these feelings are what we call delusion. We need to cast off all our opinions, judgments, arrogance and self-doubt, and stop comparing ourselves with others. In this way, there are no hindrances. We can just be ourselves and trust profoundly in our Buddha nature.
Most of us go through life trying to find meaning in our actions and our relationships. But when we ask “What is the meaning of my life?” without asking, “Who am I?” we’re still clinging to false conceptions of the self. If we can resolve this question, then we realize that whatever we do is filled with meaning.
All the spiritual teachings on fearlessness point to the fact that being fearless doesn’t mean not feeling fear, but not being stopped by it. In this pointed talk, Shugen Sensei speaks directly to the ways in which we can all learn to face our fears in order to be free from, rather than debilitated by, them.
Our physical body is the miraculous gate through which we experience this world and life. It is also the focus of endless anxiety - especially in our culture. Shugen Sensei explores this tension, and the relationship of the ephemeral and the permanent, showing us how we can be free of anxiety.
When we think in terms of failure and success we suffer. But life involves learning how to fall, how to get up from that fall and how to keep going. As a Zen saying goes: “Seven times knocked down; eight times get up.” When we learn that falling and getting up are one and the same, then we can be free of failure.
Women have faced oppression and discrimination throughout history - even Buddhist history, beginning with the Buddha himself. In this talk, Shugen Sensei explores how we can move beyond our fear of differences by looking at a passage from the Vimalakirti Sutra in which the Goddess arranges for Shariputra to experience being in her female body. He realizes that an "essence" of maleness or femaleness cannot be found. What is it to be male? Female? Black? White? Where do these differences actually exist?
What does it mean to forget the self? Who are you when you take away the 10,000 parts into which you have divided your life, the 10,000 seams or gaps you’ve laced over your self? The divisions and delusions that have burdened us can become our path - in fact, they are and have always been our path.