THE WAY OF THE BUDDHA -- Gautama Siddhartha who Awakened to Reality

"I teach only two things, O disciples, the fact of suffering and the possibility of escape from suffering."


A. The FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS:

        1. There is suffering. (Dukkha)

                    Think especially of the "unnecessary or surplus suffering"
                    we cause to ourselves, to others, and to our partnerships.

        2. Suffering has its causes. Generically, they fall under 3 headings:

                            CLINGING -- Excessive Liking, Attachment, Greed,
                                                        Over-possessive, Addictive, etc.

                            CONDEMNING -- Excessive Disliking, Aversion, Hatred,
                                                                Resentful, Envious, etc.

                            IDENTIFYING -- with possessions, prestige, power, roles, beliefs, etc.
                                                Key phrase: "That just the way I am -- or we are -- or it is"

        3.    Reduce the causes
                            (that is reduce the Clinging, Condemning and Identifying)
                and you will reduce the suffering. (esp. surplus suffering)

        4. There is a way to do this -- the Eightfold Path.

                My Eightfold Path song is as follows: (to be sung over and over)

            KNOWING, LOVING, HERE WE GO NOW.     (The 1st line can also say:
                                                                                              Prajna, Prajna, Great Karuna
             SPEAKING, ACTING, RIGHT VOCATION             which means
                                                                                                Wisdom, Wisdom, Great
            STEADY, MINDFUL, CONCENTRATION                     Compassion.)

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The Eightfold Path has three components --

            First :  the Wisdom - Compassion segment  -- a Realizing and Resovlving
                                                                                        I realize that I am caught in
                                                                                        a web of suffering; I resolve to
                                                                                        reduce such suffering.
                                                        These knowing and willing segments will
                                                            blossom into true wisdom (prajna) and
                                                            true compassion (karuna) as the practitioner
                                                            goes round and round the 8-fold path.

            Second:  A Sila or Conduct segment -- Speaking, Acting, Right Vocation

                                        The upward and outward part of the circle issuing in service.

            Third:  A Samadhi or Meditative segment -- Steady, Mindful, Concentration

                                        The downward and inward part of the circle stressing stillness.

            I recommend that we see the eight-fold path as a spiral -- occurring over and over and each time deepening our insight into the true nature of things and our corresponding compassion for all beings.
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The Mahayana Background of Zen

      Theravada                                     Buddhist                          Mahayana
         Way of                                        Teachings                           Way of
Understanding                                                                             Understanding
           and                                           3 Marks of                             and
Responding to ---->                             Existence             <----- Responding to
                                                        4 Noble Truths

Keep in mind that Zen has, as its background, the Mahayana reinterpretation of Buddhist teaching, including

a) CRITICIZING THE IDEAL OF PRACTICE:

            FROM the Theravada ideal of the arhat (criticized as selfish)

                                            TO the Mahayana ideal of the Bodhisattva,

b) REDEFINING THE GOAL OF PRACTICE:

            FROM nirvana as escape from samsara to another realm -- off the wheel --
                                a place/state called "nirvana"

                                TO [nirvana = samsara]; [sunyata = tathata]
 
                                        NOWHERE   =   NOW     HERE
                                        emptiness          concreteness
                                            open                 particular things
                                        spacious                     unique
                                        fertile void             unrepeatable

Put more strikingly, where the Theravada path has us work on reducing our
confusion, our neurosis,
                the Mahayana path has us realizing we are the Buddha-nature --
                                    right here, right now, in this one world..

c) SHIFTING THE MEANS OF PRACTICE:

        FROM straightforward work -- meditation as achieving a desired state

                                TO a more indirect strategy -- for example,

in Rinzai Zen you must strive and strive until you realize that you can't reach non-attachment by striving!

in Soto Zen, you must practice diligently only to realize that you have never not possessed the Buddha-nature.
 

Around 500 C.E. --- actually, 520 -- the quasi-legendary Bodhidharma (Daruma)
came from India to China. This First Zen Patriarch of China is credited with these
classic Four Statements of Zen:

                A special transmission outside of the scriptures

                No dependence [reliance] on words or letters

                Direct pointing to the human heart

                Seeing into one's [original] nature and attainment of Buddhahood.

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Around 700 C.E. we come to Hui Neng (Eno), the 6th & last Zen Patriarch of China.

        Shen-hsiu's poem:                                         Hui-Neng's reply:

    Our body is the Bodhi tree;                             There is no Bodhi tree
    our mind is a mirror bright.                               Nor stand of mirror bright.
    Carefully we wipe them clean                          Since all is void, all empty,
    And let no dust alight.                                       Where can the dust alight?

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