You’re always a beginner. If you always wake up in the morning and realize, “Oh my God, I’m just a beginner!,” then you’re in a really good place. If you wake up in the morning and say, “Oh, I’ve got that handled, I can do anything I want.”—hmm, I don’t know.
Now I follow a practice that I’ve done for about ten years. I go through an actual daily practice of greeting the instrument, positioning myself with the instrument, paying attention to my posture, my breathing, the texture, the feeling of the instrument. Sometimes that takes seconds, sometimes it takes five minutes. Just getting a physical-sensory connection. The next thing is when I actually start playing, I don’t lose that physical connection. To be completely aware of the sound that I’m playing and also what my feelings are about the sound of the instrument. Just paying attention. I don’t try to do anything about it necessarily, but I just play, letting it be there. I might be playing an arpeggio or a melody, but basically the attention is on the sensory-emotional aspect of my playing. And then I let it go.
“I think music actually prepared me in some ways in coming to zazen, because it was the only window in my life where I felt kind of a spiritual or religious sense. I looked at that the essence of that and it was just bare awareness. Zazen is the same thing; it’s a heightened sense of awareness. My daily mantra is a quote from my Zen teacher, John Daido Loori, Roshi. I asked him one time, “What is Zen?” He said, “Just do what you’re doing while you’re doing it.” It’s so simple, but it’s so hard! That’s something about Keith [Jarrett]. Whatever he’s doing, he’s doing it. In some ways he’s more Zen than anybody I’ve ever met.”
“The Buddha’s teachings can be divided into three parts: sila, samadhi, and panna (ethical conduct, concentration, and wisdom). Or to put it into the vernacular: clean up your act, concentrate your mind, and use your concentrated mind to investigate reality.
This is the heart of the method the Buddha discovered. These states are not an end in and of themselves, unlike what the Buddha’s two teachers had taught him shortly after he’d left home to begin his spiritual quest. They are simply a way of preparing your mind so you can more effectively examine reality and discover the deeper truths that lead to liberation.”
As Buddhist practitioners, indeed, as citizens of planet Earth, we might wonder if there’s a better use of our time than sitting still in silence. Shouldn’t we be raising our voices, righting wrongs, and fighting the good fight? There are people to help and causes to champion, protests to organize and injustices to correct. Turning our backs and facing a wall sure looks like escaping reality and avoiding responsibility.
Formal practice—in a meditation hall, surrounded by a sangha—has long been criticized as socially disengaged, morally indifferent, and even selfish. […] Whenever we’re confused about the point of our practice, it’s time to question our judgments and beliefs. We are taught to take refuge in buddha, dharma, and sangha, and many of us make vows to do so. But is there true refuge in our refuge, or are we just reciting words? Is practice our living reality or just an intellectual pastime? We must continually answer these questions for ourselves, or the buddhadharma dies.
As taught in the eightfold path, the right view changes everything, because when we know that our actions and beliefs have infinite consequences, we live differently. Practice is the place where we can begin to see the truth of this, and each glimpse subtly transforms our lives and the world.
We know it works, because our actions and beliefs have infinite consequences. Little by little, our view widens beyond our own desires. What starts as a self-help project thus becomes the work of a bodhisattva: taking on the suffering of the world. That means we respond to the needs that appear in front of us. It doesn’t matter if our actions seem big or small, enough or not enough. We shouldn’t be fooled by what we think.
Practice is a marvelous vehicle—it goes everywhere and includes everything. It donates clothing and food, signs petitions, and joins marches. It visits the lonely and sits with the dying; it listens, smiles, laughs, and cries. It gives money and time. It votes. Far from disengaged, a living practice is intimately engaged because it is you.
The never-ending greed and hate of samsara make the need for practice clear.
” Following Helmholtz, we view the human perceptual system as a statistical inference engine whose function is to infer the probable causes of sensory input. We show that a device of this kind can learn how to perform these inferences without requiring a teacher to label each sensory input vector with its underlying causes. A recognition model is used to infer a probability distribution over the underlying causes from the sensory input, and a separate generative model, which is also learned, is used to train the recognition model.
The Helmholtz machine fits comfortably within the framework of Grenander’s pattern theory (Grenander 1976) in the form of Mumford’s (1994) proposals for the mapping onto the brain.”
The Master said “The Way has no light or dark. Light and dark means alternation. Light upon light without end is still finite, because it is defined in relative terms. The Pure Name Sutra says ‘Truth has no comparison, because there is no relativity in it’. […] Affliction itself is enlightenment: there is no duality, no difference”
Maslow in his “Toward a Psychology of Being” and other works has distinguished between what he calls Being cognition (or B-cognition) and Deficiency cognition (or D-cognition).
His characterization of D-cognition is remarkably parallel to Schutz’s notion of the world of daily life, for D-cognition is the recognition of what is lacking and what must be made up for through striving. D-cognition is motivated by a fundamental anxiety that propels us toward practical and pragmatic action in the world of working. When we are controlled by Deficiency motives, we operate under the means/ends schema, we have a clear sense of difference between subject and object, and our attitude toward objects (even human objects) is manipulative. We concentrate on partial aspects of reality that are most germane to our needs and ignore the rest, both of ourselves and of the world, but we operate with scrupulous attention to the constraints of standard time and space.
Being cognition is defined in sharpest contrast to Deficiency cognition on every dimension. When we are propelled by B-motives, we relate to the world by participation, not manipulation; we experience a union of subject and object, a wholeness that overcomes all partiality. The B-cognition is an end in itself, not a means to anything else, and it tends to transcend our ordinary experience of time and space. Maslow does not identify B-experiences exclusively with religion— they may occur in nature, in relation to art, in intense interpersonal relations, even in sports. But because B-experiences are so frequently reported in religious literature, they may provide an initial mode of entry into the particular way that people experience the world religiously, even though it is certainly not the only way and we will have to broaden our phenomenological description of religious worlds as we encounter particular religions in more detail.
But we can also see the various realms of reality as going on at the same time, and occasionally cutting into one another. Objects in the world of daily life may carry more than one meaning, and we may not be conscious of all the meanings. We may relate to our boss in the world of working, perhaps unconsciously, as if he were our father. As psychotherapists know, such a meaning can distort our behavior to the extent that it disrupts our ability to function in the work situation. Many objects that we encounter in the world of everyday have, at least potentially, religious meanings.
In other words, it is always possible that an object, a person, or an event in the world of daily life may have a meaning in another reality that transcends the world of working. If so we may call it a symbol, following Alfred Schutz’s usage with respect to that term. We will have much more to say about symbols, but here we may only note that we are surrounded by symbols, or potential symbols, all the time. A tree, water, the sun are all multivalent symbols, but a room is a symbol, a door is a symbol, a book is a symbol, a teacher is a symbol, a student is a symbol. Most of the time in daily life we are operating with a narrowly pragmatic consciousness, with what Maslow calls D-cognition, and we don’t see symbols, or at least we don’t consciously see them. At times, however, even in the midst of daily life, we may experience a B-cognition when something ordinary becomes extraordinary, becomes symbolic.
Without the capacity for symbolic transcendence, for seeing the realm of daily life in terms of a realm beyond it, without the capacity for “beyonding,”as Kenneth Burke put it, one would be trapped in a world of what has been called dreadful immanence. For the world of daily life seen solely as a world of rational response to anxiety and need is a world of mechanical necessity, not radical autonomy. It is through pointing to other realities, through beyonding, that religion and poetry, and science too in its own way, break the dreadful fatalities of this world of appearances. We can begin to see why taking the world of daily life as the paramount reality is dangerous if it is anything more than a methodological assumption. We have noted that no one can stand to live in the world of daily life all the time. Its governing anxiety derives from two of its features: the fact that it is a world of lack, of Deficiency motives that must be made up; and the fact that the manipulations in which it is engaged have no guaranteed success—they might fail in the attempt to overcome some deficiency. The world of daily life must then be punctuated with periods that are more inherently gratifying: with sleep, with common meals, with activities that are not means to any ends. Alasdair MacIntyre has used the term “practices” to apply to activities whose goods are internal to them. The kind of B-cognition that we have used to characterize religious experience is not a practice, because, to paraphrase Stevens, it is not something we achieve but something that happens.
The world of working as the world of the manipulation of objects in order to satisfy needs is inadequate to the understanding even of the world of working.
Yet, I believe, there is a pull, even in the very center of the world of working, toward the understanding of work as practice, as intrinsically meaningful and valuable, rather than as means to an end. […] We may take, for example, the Zen Buddhist notion of practice, which in its primary sense means meditation, preferably in the lotus posture for definite periods in a meditation hall with other Zen devotees. The notion of Zen practice is then extrapolated to all activities, so that sweeping becomes practice, doing the dishes becomes practice, and so would any kind of work. What makes work into practice from the Zen point of view would be the attitude of mindfulness, a particular form of religious attention. Mindfulness does not mean concern for outcome but openness to the reality of what is actually happening, a kind of B-cognition.
“because logos is a specific mode of letting something be seen, logos simply may not be acclaimed as the primary “place” of truth. If one defines truth as what “properly” pertains to judgment, which is quite customary today, and if one invokes Aristotle in support of this thesis, such invocation is without justification and the Greek concept of truth thoroughly misunderstood. In the Greek sense what is “true” indeed more originally true than the logos we have been discussing is aisthēsis, the straightforward sensuous apprehending of some thing. To the extent that an aisthēsis aims at its idia [what is its own]—the beings genuinely accessible only through it and for it, for example, looking at colors—apprehending is always true. This means that looking always discovers colors, hearing always discovers tones. What is in the purest and most original sense “true”—that is, what only discovers in such a way that it can never cover up anything—is pure noein, straightforwardly observant apprehension of the simplest determinations of the Being of beings as such. This noein can never cover up, can never be false; at worst it can be a nonapprehending, agnoein, not sufficing for straightforward, appropriate access.
What no longer takes the form of a pure letting be seen, but rather in its indicating always has recourse to something else and so always lets something be seen as something, acquires a structure of synthesis and therewith the possibility of covering up.”
The one who bows and the one who is bowed to are both, by nature, empty. Therefore the communication between them is inexpressibly perfect. Our practice center is the Net of Indra reflecting all Buddhas everywhere. And with my person in front of each Buddha, I go with my whole life for refuge.
Offering light in the Ten Directions, the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, to whom we bow in gratitude.
Teaching and living the way of awareness in the very midst of suffering and confusion, Shakyamuni Buddha, the Fully Enlightened One, to whom we bow in gratitude.
Cutting through ignorance, awakening our hearts and our minds, Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of Great Understanding, to whom we bow in gratitude.
Working mindfully, working joyfully for the sake of all beings, Samantabhadra, the Bodhisattva of Great Action, to whom we bow in gratitude.
Listening deeply, serving beings in countless ways, Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion, to whom we bow in gratitude.
Fearless and persevering through realms of suffering and darkness, Kshitigarbha, the Bodhisattva of Great Aspiration, to whom we bow in gratitude.
Seed of awakening and loving kindness in children and all beings, Maitreya, the Buddha to-be-born, to whom we bow in gratitude.
Showing the way fearlessly and compassionately, the stream of all our Ancestral Teachers, to whom we bow in gratitude
“Religious interpretations invariably reduce complexity to uniformity while elevating matter-of-factness to holiness […] And the crucial distinction that each truth requires being acted upon in its own particular way (understanding anguish, letting go of its origins, realizing its cessation, and cultivating the path) has been relegated to the margins of specialist doctrinal knowledge. Yet in failing to make this distinction, four ennobling truths to be acted upon are neatly turned into four propositions of fact to be believed. The first truth becomes: “Life Is Suffering”; the second: “The Cause of Suffering Is Cravings—and so on. At precisely this juncture, Buddhism becomes a religion.”