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Posts Tagged ‘inspiration’

Wendy MiyakeLast week Andrea Miller posted a short story over on Shambhala Sun Space: “Remembering Koizumi” by Wendy Miyake. I’ve tried countless times in the past thirty minutes to try to give a one-sentence summary of this story. Each time I try, my words cannot seem to do the story justice. You just have to read it for yourself.

Miyake manages to weave Buddhist ritual and philosophy into her story both lightly and meaningfully. Her writing is colorful, funny, engaging and touching. I was delighted to read her writing, and I was even more delighted that it was Shambhala Sun Space that brought Miyake’s work to my attention.

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After the Kathina holiday, I made a pact with my friend Rith that we would sit for an hour every morning and every evening. We had shared very personal stories about our meditation practice and discovered many exceptional similarities. The two of us also happened to be stuck in a meditation rut. We were determined to get back on track.

We failed miserably from the very first day. When we did sit, we failed to sit for an hour and never on a regular basis. Many weeks passed without any communication at all.

Recently inspired by a certain Buddhadharma forum, we decided to try again and start sending text messages to encourage each other every day.* At first I couldn’t sit for even an hour. I texted Rith and told him it was harrowing, but I’d try again anyway. It took a couple days before I could sit an hour both morning and night, and of course I’m still struggling. Naturally, he got this news by text too.

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The Ground of Inspiration

Having spent a goodly amount of time amongst all manner of Buddhist traditions, the academic part of me keeps coming back to the startling similarities that we all share.

However, oddly enough, it is that emotional part of myself, the emphatic part, the part that is moved, that brings me back and back again to the startling difference between traditions and from within the pool of practitioners of varied character in any community. And this, I think, is the difference: Though we may all walk the same path, we are propelled by a myriad of forces – we are dividedly inspired.

This is what inspires me. (more…)

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For the community minded Buddhist in Southern California, May is a time of much bustling about. The region is blessed with a vibrant Buddhist community or laypersons and monastics of all different traditions. We also do Vesak up right, again and again and again.

It is not uncommon for each temple or center to offer their own celebration while also participating in one or two larger non-sectarian pan-temple ceremonies. Throwing in things like Tzu Chi, student groups, and other organizations, May can be a time of great celebration, and a time where a great number of brown cardboard boxes need moving.

Still, my favorite Buddha Day of all time, was two years ago when no one came. (more…)

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In addition to the Shobogenzo, another source of my reading as of late has been Journey to the West. Journey to the West is fascinating enough for its own sake as literature, but it is also interesting how it weaves together the three major spiritual traditions of China into one unproblematic mythology, raising Buddhist questions along the way.

One of my favorite parts thus far, though I have not gotten too far along this one hundred chapter tome, is shortly after the Monkey Kind has been appointed the leader of the monkeys. Soon, amongst their play and frolicking, they realize they are subject to death. Terrified, the Monkey King asks around to find a way to be free from death, and is told by one wise old monkey that the Buddhas, Immortals, and Sages can deliver him from death, but that these great teachers are only present in the human world.

Determined, the Monkey King sets off on a journey to the human world to receive the teaching, and upon getting there he is shocked that none of the humans seem to care or think about the immediacy of death at all.

How typical, huh?

One of the thoughts that I personally find very inspiring, one that drives much of my practice, is the feeling of how fortunate I am to have been born in a time when the Dharma is still known in the world, and that I am in a situation where I am able to learn and practice.

There is a famous simile about how precious a human rebirth is involving a blind tortoise. The Buddha asked us to imagine a planet completed covered in water with a single inhabitant: a blind tortoise. Also on this planet is a single yoke that fits exactly around the neck of the tortoise floating upon the water’s surface. The winds on this planet blow the yoke hither and thither, and every one hundred years the blind tortoise surfaces for just a moment. The Buddha says that a human rebirth is even more rare than how rare it would be for the yoke to fit around the rising tortoise’s neck.

That is just for a human rebirth! Imagine being born as a human being during the age of the Dharma, and being in such a station as to be able to practice it! I imagine an appropriate addition would be some sort of blind mosquito, which flew around randomly and landed every one hundred years, aiming to hit the nose of the tortoise whom is perfectly ensnared by the yoke.

The Monkey King asks around, finding no one who shares his concern, nor anyone who is aware of where he can find a Buddha, Immortal, or Sage to practice under. Finally, when he does find someone to lead him to his first teacher, the man is too busy plowing his field and refuses to go along.

It is difficult, when I consider the rising and falling concerns of my every day life, to think I am doing anything more than plowing my field.

The Sun Wukong illustration was made by Hai Dang Quang and is liscenced under the GFDL

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Man wanders lonely as a cloud; meditates.Man wanders lonely as a cloud; meditates.

Like many folks, one of the Buddhist websites that opened a whole new world for me was Access To Insight. In addition to being an incomparable resource for sutta translations and the writings of the Thai Forrest Masters, it also contains some of the clearest and most helpful Buddhist writing for beginners I’ve ever come across.

One such article is John Bullitt’s own Befriending the Suttas. Befriending the Suttas is a great introduction to reading Canonical Buddhist Literature, and offers many helpful points for approaching and understanding suttas. However, the first time I read it, so many years ago, one provision always struck me as odd:

A good sutta is one that inspires you to stop reading it.
The whole point of reading suttas is to inspire you to develop right view, live an upright life, and meditate correctly. So if, as you’re reading, you feel a growing urge to put down the book, go sit in a quiet spot, close your eyes, and attend to the breath, then do it! The sutta will have then fulfilled its purpose. It will still be there when you come back to it later.
(From Befriending the Suttas)

When I first encountered Buddhism I could only vaguely hope to read something that would powerfully move me, and could never imagine being moved to meditate of all things. More than anything it was Bullitt’s italics that sold me, which I imagined being expressed with a grin, a gesture, and a boisterous ‘thumbs up’ pointing towards the sky.

While the most important aspects of meditation happen day to day when we Commit to Sit as my esteemed colleague so eloquently blogged before me, I do wonder about these moments of romantic meditation – when one is either inspired or filled with the sense of wanting to or the importance of meditation – when one is gripped with the need to sit right now.

There are many times in Buddhist legends when meditation is made heroic and inscribed within an epic frame. The Buddha, immediately before his awakening, vows that he will not move from his spot until he has released himself from birth and death, and withstands the myriad armies of Mara in his pursuit. But I wonder if these times of inspired meditation in our own lives can lead to great fruit, or if they are the products of too much mental formation.

I’d love to hear your own stories of inspired and uninspired meditation in the comment section.

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