Human beings spend most of their time talking to themselves. Constantly preoccupied with the past and the future, we live in a perpetual state of distraction and mental turmoil. But what happens when our internal chatter quiets down? Roshi discusses our minds' capability to experience profound stillness, and the heart of Zen practice is to find this still point within ourselves.
"what to heck"
The Heart Sutra is one of the most important teachings in all Buddhist schools, including Zen. In this challenging talk, Roshi discusses The Heart Sutra and explains the Buddhist concept of emptiness. Emptiness doesn't mean that the world is empty, nor does it mean that we are supposed to walk around like emotionless zombies. Realizing emptiness is essentially realizing that we are not separate from the world around us.
Babe Ruth hit 704 home runs, but no one ever mentions that he struck out about 3,000 times. In our goal-oriented culture, we tend to forget that you can't hit home runs unless you strike out; we think that failure is something bad, and as a result we become afraid to take action.
It is a constant practice to not get stuck in the language or forms of Zen training. The precepts, wisdom, higher states of meditation - these are all concepts that need to be let go of. Don’t turn your Zen practice into a nest, a workshop, a medicine cabinet or a make-up kit. True realization is traceless. It has nothing to do with your ideas about it. Even at the top of a hundred-foot pole, there’s nowhere else to go but forward.
Dogen said: Suchness is the real form of truth. Our life is constantly changing, our minds are constantly changing. This can make us feel helpless and lead us to ask: On what can we rely? Or, this flux can be used to practice and deepen our awareness. To ask what is suchness is to ask how all things exist. Through this question we can become truly intimate, but we have to trust the question, trust the process, and trust ourselves.
Shakyamuni Gautama was a historical figure who lived in India from approximately 563 to 483 B.C. After his death, Buddhism spread over Asia, and almost 2,500 years later Buddhism has come to the West, where it is more relevant than ever. These four classic talks by John Daido Loori, abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery, offer a clear, comprehensive version of the Buddha's life and teachings, including Buddha's life as a householder, spiritual seeker, and ultimately a teacher.
The world is teaching us all the time. Teachings come from rivers, rocks, and mountains, and teachings come from pollution, AIDS, and starvation. But how much of these teachings do we actually hear? Roshi says that we can't possibly experience the world around us if our senses are dulled. Zen practice shows us that it is possible to experience life in a new way, a way that allows us to hear with the whole body and mind.
American Buddhism is a new phenomena, and teachers range from self-appointed gurus to highly qualified masters. With so many teachers and religious centers to choose from, how can you find someone you really trust? The real issue, according to Daido Roshi, is understanding the meaning of spiritual authority. Transmission from a teacher should be based on our own realization as well as the teacher's.
Sooner or later, we all confront situations with no easy way out. For human beings, sickness, old age, and death, either our own or someone else's, seem like insurmountable barriers. We all struggle to avoid these things, and the media encourages our pursuit, offering plastic surgery, exercise routines, and all manner of pills to achieve eternal youth. But sooner or later, we need to realize that old age and suffering are not going to magically dissolve.
Zen Buddhism emphasizes meditation as the means to study ourselves and understand who we truly are. Dharma talks are an essential aspect of Zen training, and the talks offered here were given at both the Zen Mountain Monastery and the Zen Center of New York City.
Feeling superior to others is a common problem for most of us. We cut off other people and dismiss them based on how they look, their gender, or even their age. This arrogance is a barrier to progression in our spiritual life and indeed in all of our life.
When we are confronted with worries and challenges, it can be difficult to get in touch with our spiritual center. Barriers are a fact of life, and no matter how challenging our everyday life we all possess an inherent spiritual light.
"A True Teacher"
All societies have laws to prevent physical and verbal violence, but what about the violence we create with our thoughts? Daido Roshi states that our minds are incredibly powerful, and they create a force that shapes the reality around us. We can only bring peace and healing to ourselves and others if we first have peace in our minds. But we can't quiet the mind until we see how much time we spend talking to ourselves, and until we let go of our almost constant inner chatter.
Shopping and spending money is a major part of our culture, and few of us are immune to the seductions of consumerism. Big business knows this, and they count on the fact that we are all conditioned to crave what we do not have. It is possible, however, for us to stop living out of our conditioning and realize that nothing is really missing.
The moment a child is born, a parent is created; you can't have one without the other. Daido Roshi explores the love between parent and child, and the complete intimacy that exists between the two. We see this intimacy in the way children mirror their parents, the way children reflect how we use our body, speech, and mind.
People think of Zen as a humorless religion, but like Christianity, Judaism, and other faiths, Zen has a long tradition of clowns and pranksters. In this enjoyable and thought-provoking talk, Zen master John Daido Loori Roshi tells anecdotes about various ancient and modern Zen teachers who were known for playing the fool.