Thursday, July 30, 2015

Your Life Is Your Altar

Most people new to Buddhism misunderstand the purpose of an altar. I don't worship the statue at its center or even the Buddha himself, the historical man that the image represents.

To me, an altar is a visual embodiment of the awakened mind--life right here and now. The Buddha symbolizes our own stainless mind, unperturbed even in the thickest and most chaotic of circumstances. It's a way of making the ordinary sacred, of reminding ourselves that every moment is it; that there is nowhere we need to go, no state that we need to attain.

It's always right here in front of us. As us.

In a sense, an altar is redundant: we are attending to a physical symbol of our lives with, and within, our lives. It's like building a roof on top of a roof. If everything is sacred, how can one thing be more sacred than another?

Zen practice frees us to wander like the Taoist sage and Ch'an master in Chinese lore, unencumbered by ritual, temple, and self-reflection. This wandering can be literal and symbolic. It can take place on the road, at work, or in a monastery.

It can take the form of changing a car tire, filing TPS reports, and polishing the Buddha on the altar. For in the end, these are all expressions of Buddha being Buddha. The physical altar is a reminder that our lives, and everything in them, are the real altars.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Dharma talk - The One Teaching

All Buddhist teachings point to one thing, the awakened mind. Find your true nature and then save all sentient beings. Everything else is upaya or skillful means.

Introduction and sound engineering by Tom Eunsahn Gartland.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Hole of It

As I was chainsawing some wood yesterday, I spilled some bar oil on my driveway. I soaked it up with some cardboard but a thin film still remained, so I sprayed it with the hose. The water puddled on the hot asphalt as I took a break in the shade of the garage, just at the point where I could still feel the afternoon breeze.

I hosed some water over my head and closed my eyes. When the water stopped dripping off of my face, I heard a trickling sound. I opened my eyes and noticed a small fissure between the driveway and the cement apron leading to the garage. The water had found its way to the lowest point and was draining underground.

Our yard slopes away from the house, where all of our rainwater and downspouts drain. So it is no surprise that ground water had found or channeled its way into the soil in order to drain.

It is only natural. Here is water resolving itself, doing what it does so naturally--flowing. So simple, so ordinary. When it's raining and I'm inside my house tinkering and toiling, trying to fix my life, the water is trickling away down this hole.

If only we could be so adaptive, selfless. We can.

Zen, an heir to Taoism with its emphasis on natural spontaneity, teaches us to stop blocking ourselves and simply respond to circumstances without the clutter of an insistent ego. If we, like water, can simply stop demanding that life follow our orders, and just find the holes--the natural openings that life offers us--then we can move freely. As the title of The Gateless Gate suggests, we are never bound; the Way is always open and clear.

That is our original mind.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Weeds and All - Dharma talk

Learning how to accept circumstances as they are is one of the most important skills we can learn. Zen does not aim at uprooting those unpleasant aspects of our lives or personalities as much as it helps us to learn how open ourselves up wider in order to accept them. Then we have the choose to weed our metaphorical gardens or just let things be.

Introduction and sound engineering by Tom Eunsahn Gartland.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Happy 5th of July! - Dharma talk

In this Dharma talk, delivered on July 5th, I discuss what our lives would be like if we treated every day like a holiday.

Introduction and sound engineering by Tom Eunsahn Gartland.