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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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"
Many of us yearn for a deeper spiritual connection, but few of us know how to manifest spirituality in our daily lives. We buy into conditioning from the media and our schools, and as a result we experience life as limited and painful. Daido Roshi says that this dilemma is like someone sitting by a river and dying of thirst.
"John, John, you've outdone yourself!"
In the modern world, we are encouraged to be special, to be different and stand out from everyone else. Zen Buddhism has a different approach, encouraging us instead to be "nothing special". Daido Roshi declares that our lives are fine exactly the way they are; Zen is not about adding anything to our lives, it's about seeing the inherent perfection we already possess.
Every day we are faced with moral decisions, and it's often difficult to know how to act. If there's a snake in our garden, do we kill it? If our co-worker is stealing from the company, is it our obligation to speak up? What if we tell our children not to lie, then the phone rings and we ask them to say we're not home? In this compelling talk, Daido Roshi explores the role of morality and ethics in our lives.
When we think of spiritual powers, we usually imagine walking on water or performing some kind of miracle. However, Roshi points out that true mystical power resides within the simple actions of our everyday lives, whether we are cooking a meal, washing the dishes, or driving a car. These activities seem ordinary, but they have an extraordinary aspect as well.
Everyone has experienced life's classic dilemmas: Should I do this, or should I do that? Should I buy this, or should I buy that? Should I be here, or should I be there? We tend to resolve these questions by analysis and rationality, but when we look carefully we see that our choices usually aren't rational; more often they are a decision of the heart.
"Not about Aron Ralston's survival story."
It's always heartwarming to watch a child's joy during the holidays, or to witness people reaching out to one another during times of crisis. But how do we give in our everyday lives? Daido Roshi examines the true meaning of giving, pointing out that each moment is an opportunity to give, and each moment is full of gifts we are receiving from others. But few actions are as misunderstood as giving, mostly due to our confusion about material and spiritual gifts.
Our ordinary point of view divides the world in two. Me and you, right and wrong, success and failure, life and death, practically all of our daily encounters are about divisions. We separate ourselves from the world around us, and this separation is the cause of our pain and suffering.