Tea House

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

Tag: Thich Nhat Hanh

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.

#Buddhistdoor Global—Your Doorway to the World of #Buddhism
#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.

The Language of Flowers: Flower Artist Masao Mizukami

Grace Ko

Mizukami’s flower arrangement at Hong Kong Flower Show 2017. Image courtesy of Sally Tsui

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand; and a Heaven in a Wild Flower; hold Infinity in the palm of your hand; and Eternity in an hour,” said English poet William Blake. Japanese flower arranging emphasizes interaction with the natural world to reach enlightenment. Japanese flower artist Masao Mizukami finds this spiritual and creative language in flowers and nature.

Flowers are emissaries of nature, inspiring us to see and appreciate beauty in the world. Masao Mizukami is a master of Japanese flower arranging and he finds a creative language in the arrangement of flowers with natural settings.

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The Harp in the Crisp Wind: Intersections of Buddhism and Celtic Christianity

Raymond Lam

"The Way into the Woods," by Angela Jayne Barnett

“The Way into the Woods,” by Angela Jayne Barnett

In July 2015, I wrote a book review of Laurence Cox’s Buddhism in Ireland: From the Celts to the Counter-Culture and Beyond. “Celtishness” has fascinated European and global culture, from influences in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to historical accounts of sacred places like Lindisfarne. There is an earthly, grassy, hearty beauty about everything Celtic, including contemporary Celtic Christianity. From what little I know, there was no formal institution that could call itself the Celtic Church, although the term historically denotes the beliefs of the early Christians of Britain and Ireland. It flourished from the 5th to 7th century, lasting until the 11th as an intellectual force.

The vastness and openness of the Scottish highlands, the windswept fields of Ireland, and the shimmering Welsh coast have lent the amorphous idea of Celtic spirituality some consistency, in self-understanding if not in formal doctrine. Celtic Christianity invokes romantic ties to the natural landscape that transcend the old pagan ways and a creative articulation of spiritual and artistic expressions unique to Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. And there are two persistent affinities with Buddhism: love of the monastic way of life, from Saint Cuthbert to Saint Finnian of Clonard, and love of nature.

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