Tea House

Daily Perspectives and Stories on Buddhist Trends, People, and Ideas

Tag: life

Master Huijing’s Dharma Words about the Purpose of Life

If we step back and pause to reflect a little, we’ll realize just how many concerns dog us in our daily existence. As Buddhists we shouldn’t seek to ignore the conventional realities that can cause concern and vexation to arise in us. I’d be the first to confess that I have plenty of worries. But we should also put these worries into perspective. In our everyday lives, over the course of many years, we discern that some worries are trivial and deserve little thought while others, like marriage, family, and work are legitimately significant and can shape the direction and affect the wellbeing of our lives.

Let’s take the most significant of worldly worries, then, and contrast it with the great matter of birth and death. Even the biggest matters of our lives will fall into frivolity when compared to our concern about that which lies beyond. The true purpose of life is invoking Amitabha Buddha with faith, for when it comes to we who are unenlightened and lacking insight, the matter of transcending birth and death overrides all others.

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Life, Death… All a Matter of Perspective

We like to tell ourselves that we intellectually (even if we struggle to emotionally) grasp the significance of death as the end of our present existence. But time, life, and death are nowhere near as commonsense as we think. In an article in The Independent, professor Robert Lanza lays out the concept of biocentrism: ‘the universe only exists because of an individual’s consciousness of it – essentially life and biology are central to reality, which in turn creates the universe; the universe itself does not create life. The same applies to the concepts of space and time, which Professor Lanza describes as “simply tools of the mind.”’

We don’t experience reality “as it is.” We simply don’t have that kind of access, unless we are bodhisattvas or Buddhas. For us, “life,” “death,” and everything in between is filtered through our senses and perceptions. Similarly, as Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh has said (and which we highlight in today’s Wisdom for Today quote on the main website), birth and death are quite literally a matter of perspectives, much like the concept of above and below when we’re sitting on this blue and green rock in a quiet corner of a galaxy among billions of galaxies in a vast, unfathomable universe.

The most ancient and primeval human story is the struggle to understand the great mystery and what lies beyond, that which is too big to be contained merely by our conceptions of what reality is. Only the Buddha can help us peer past the veil that our minds have created to obscure our insight.

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#Wisdom for Today: https://www.buddhistdoor.net/wisdom-for-today

Postcard from Raymond: We Never Truly Die

One of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh’s most eloquent and moving teachings is a summation of Buddhist doctrine about life after death: we do not leave this world until full, total enlightenment. We are integrally part of it and even when our personal time expires on this beautiful but hurting planet, we don’t disappear. Our constituents remain in this cosmos, and the loved ones and friends we leave behind can see us all around them if they just pay attention. This is the message of the Vietnamese teacher when he recounts losing his mother in one of his most personal books:

I opened the door and went outside. The entire hillside was bathed in moonlight. It was a hill covered with tea plants, and my hut was set behind the temple halfway up. Walking slowly in the moonlight through the rows of tea plants, I noticed my mother was still with me. She was the moonlight caressing me as she had done so often, very tender, very sweet… wonderful! Each time my feet touched the earth I knew my mother was there with me. I knew this body was not mine but a living continuation of my mother and my father and my grandparents and great-grandparents. Of all my ancestors. Those feet that I saw as “my” feet were actually “our” feet. Together my mother and I were leaving footprints in the damp soil.

From that moment on, the idea that I had lost my mother no longer existed. All I had to do was look at the palm of my hand, feel the breeze on my face or the earth under my feet to remember that my mother is always with me, available at any time.  — No Death, No Fear (2002)

I would like to leave you with this final, beautiful reflection from the same book. When we feel at such peace with our universe, and when we even have the Dharma’s promise of transcending it, and returning to it over and over again as bodhisattvas—What can we ever be afraid of? What can we ever hate?

I hope you enjoy these messages from Thay as much as I have loved to come back to them over the years.

This body is not me; I am not caught in this body, I am life without boundaries, I have never been born and I have never died. Over there, the wide ocean and the sky with many galaxies. All manifests from the basis of consciousness. Since beginningless time I have always been free. Birth and death are only a door through which we go in and out. Birth and death are only a game of hide-and-seek. So smile to me and take my hand and wave good-bye. Tomorrow we shall meet again or even before. We shall always be meeting again at the true source, always meeting again on the myriad paths of life.

No Tomorrow

Inspired by the Maranassati Sutta

The moment she was born Gemma knew she was about to die. By all accounts she was unlike any other child: she never got excited about Christmas and she never got upset when she was grounded. In fact her brother tells me she didn’t even bat an eyelid when her parents announced they were getting separated. It seemed Gemma had always just gone along with anything that was thrown her way, in the knowledge that she would only need to endure it for a few moments longer. And in her own way, she had breezed through life.

She had been the opposite to her brother Stuart, an excitable, feisty little boy. It was unfair really. Stuart had always cared, really badly. He cared when he found out there was no such thing as Father Christmas, and he cared when his parents were separated. And above anything else, Stuart cared that Gemma was always about to die.

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Who’s Qualified to Teach the Children?

From Master Jingzong Facebook; English translation by Foying, edited by Jingnian

Are we qualified to educate a child, simply because we are adults? Are those who have teachers’ credentials competent enough to teach youngsters? Are more knowledgeable people capable of teaching kids?

Aren’t children more innocent, honest and joyful than we are? Are they not more capable of facing life with a smile?

So what is it we are supposed to impart to them? Knowledge is useful but is it more important than life itself? If there is know-how that degrades life instead of dignifying it, is it appropriate to instill it in our children’s minds?

My understanding of childhood education is that the young should be provided with good care and all the necessaries for living and developing fully. They must be safe and allowed to grow freely in accordance with their dispositions and characteristics.

While appropriately sharing knowledge, we should observe and appreciate our children who often become our teachers in life. By refining these truths with adult rationality, we can all grow in love together.

Who knows what else might come?

Ratnadevi

‘Ready’, called the egg when it was laid. ‘Now I’m ready!’ called the tadpole when it had hatched. ‘Now I’m completely ready! ‘ called the creature, animal when it had two legs.

‘Now, finally, I’m absolutely completely ready! ‘ called the creature when it had four legs and a long tail. ‘Who knows what else might come…’, said the frog, when he was ready.

(author unknown)

Warm enough now to sit outside at the allotment, in cross-legged meditation position, contemplating eggs. How we blew them empty, half a century ago. And then painted them, under instruction of mum, turned into a high priestess transmitting ancient wisdom. A dozen of them attached with cotton thread to a willow branch – so light they are, swaying in the blow of our breath. We also boiled eggs and dyed them in luminous tulip colours, magic sulphurous odours filling the kitchen. Who will eat them all? Seemingly rituals are allowed to be wasteful and non-utilitarian.

At the allotment again, with our 5 years old granddaughter. Eagerly she collects the treasures the Easter Bunny has hidden among the fresh green, variously shaped leafs of the perennials along the borders and in the little nesting places where the fruit trees branch. When she has found them all she wants to find more. While she gets busy with her grandpa doing a little weeding and digging, I re-distribute a clutch of those metal-foil covered chocolate eggs. ‘Some kind of bunny has hidden some treasures for you’ I announce. Her eyes light up and she bounces up and down: ‘A Granny Bunny!’

Children manage to make magic at any time, under any circumstance. For us adults, a surprise find may open that door to us: like finding a ‘real’ bird’s egg. That speckled perfection, clearly containing something. Some part of us may awaken, curious, wondering and intent on making meaning, but perhaps not only in the literal way. Yes, it’s probably a blackbird’s egg, but really: What is it? What is inside? What wants to be born?

Maybe we don’t have to wait for those chance happenings or the ritually planned surprise of a gift. What would it take for us now to tap into that child-like aptitude for wonder-filled appreciation, on a daily basis? There is a way of approaching meditation that does that for me: sitting and being open to the ‘unknowingness’ of this moment, and the next.

Five Worms – A Preamble

Steve Braff

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From wclimate.com

I saved five worms today
as they lay plump and limp
upon the wet pavement –
blind altar of ignominious death
by the coming heat or passing car.

I saved five worms today
as I plucked their slippery bodies
stretched supplicant, almost inert
from the indifferent asphalt
and tossed each to shelter
in the wet grass.

I saved five worms today
only to recall and regret
the child I once was
absent care or concern
who blithely walked by
– no doubt upon –
their benevolent bodies.

I saved five worms today
only to see my path forward
scattered with their unsung dying
the inevitable suffering
the immensity of it
till I refused to look down
eyes locked on the horizon
mumbling poetry
as I made my way home.

Setting the Stage

John Cannon

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At the pavilion of a Korean palace in Seoul

A careful reflection of the path I have followed while “shuffling my way along this mortal coil” brings into sharp relief some of the events that have moulded me as a person from youth onwards: founder, teacher and administrator of a cultural and language programme for Chinese immigrant children in Toronto; two solo trips to China in the mid-80s; teaching in Hong Kong for 28 years; doing field work for my first Master thesis on Thai and Burmese student movements and a daring clandestine visit to rebel camps inside Burma to interview student activists; my ordination into the Sangha in Thailand; experiencing the Kumbh Mela Hindu festival in India; participating in Ramadan while on a study tour in Turkey; working at Buddhistdoor after forced retirement; and my formative trips to Bangladesh and interacting with the Buddhist community in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. These experiences coupled with a child-like open-mindedness to the new and unknown sprinkled with an effervescent sense of humour have grounded me in the here and now.

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