14 April 2008

Everything is a Dream

Student: Do you dream about different kinds of things now that you are a Zen Master?
Soen Sa Nim: What kind of dreams?
Student: Well, I dream about things I desire, but if you don't desire anything, what do you dream about?
Soen Sa Nim: Yah, I have dreams.
Student: What kind of dreams?
Soen Sa Nim: You are laughing, so I am laughing. This is a dream. You say you have a dream, so I am having a dream.
Student: I understand what you say, but I can't believe it.
Soen Sa Nim: You can't believe the dream. So your dream is a not believing dream. Everything is a dream, O.K.? Last night you had a dream. Just now we are talking. How is it different?
Student: I can feel it's different.
Soen Sa Nim: Feel? You say "different." So here is a famous story. Before, in China, there were five schools of Zen: Rinzai, Soto, Poep An, Un Mun, and E An. E An and An Sahn together made one school; E An was the teacher and An Sahn the disciple.
Once E An was asleep. At that time, An Sahn was only his secretary. An Sahn happened to open the door, saw that the Zen Master was asleep, and slowly closed the door. The Zen Master woke up, asked An Sahn to come in, and said, "Just now I had a dream. Do you understand?''
An Sahn said, "Yes, just now I understood," and washed the Zen Master's face with water. The Master said, "Oh, thank you very much.''
Then a student named Haeng Om, later a Zen Master, came into the Zen Master's room. The Master said, "Oh, Haeng Om, we were just talking about my dream. Do you understand my dream?''
Haeng Om said, "Yes sir," went into the kitchen, and brought out some tea. The Zen Master said, "Ah, my students are very wonderful. You all understand my dreams.''
This is dream talking. What does it mean? A dream is just like this. Just like this is a dream. When you wake up, you wash your face. This is the correct way. Then you drink tea. This is the correct way. If you completely understand dreams, then you understand the correct way. If you don't understand dreams, then you don't understand the correct way.
So you must understand that this whole world is a dream. Then my desire is also a dream, my anger is also a dream, your life is also a dream. You must understand dreams. Then you will have no desires. Only doing Bodhisattva action is possible. So this is a dream, O.K.? I have a dream. Once, Martin Luther King said, "I have a dream." Famous speech. So you must understand dreams. Understanding the dream is no good; you must attain the dream. Then you will understand your true self, O.K.? This wall is white. This floor is brown.
By:Zen Master Seung Sahn

The Whole Universe is Plastic

Zen Master Seung Sahn

One Sunday, while Seung Sahn Soen-sa was staying at the International Zen Center of New York, there was a big ceremony marking the end of one hundred days of chanting Kwanseum Bosal. Many Korean women came, with shopping bags full of food and presents. One woman brought a large bouquet of plastic flowers, which she presented smilingly to an American student of Soen-sa's. As soon as he could, the student hid the flowers under a pile of coats. But soon, another woman found them and, with the greatest delight, walked into the Dharma Room and put them in a vase on the altar.

The student was very upset. He went to Soen-sa and said, "Those plastic flowers are awful. Can't I take them off the altar and dump them somewhere?'

Soen-sa said, "It is your mind that is plastic. The whole universe is plastic.''

The student said, "What do you mean?''

Soen-sa said, "Buddha said, 'When one mind is pure, the whole universe is pure; when one mind is tainted, the whole universe is tainted.' Every day we meet people who are unhappy. When their minds are sad, everything that they see, hear, smell, taste, and touch is sad. The whole universe is sad. When the mind is happy, the whole universe is happy. If you desire something, then you are attached to it. If you reject it, you are just as attached to it. Being attached to a thing means that it becomes a hindrance in your mind. So 'I don't like plastic' is the same as 'I like plastic' -- both are attachments. You don't like plastic flowers, so your mind has become plastic, and the whole universe is plastic. Put it all down. Then you won't be hindered by anything. You won't care whether the flowers are plastic or real, whether they are on the altar or in the garbage pail. This is true freedom. A plastic flower is just a plastic flower. A real flower is just a real flower. You mustn't be attached to name and form."

The student said, "But we are trying to make a beautiful Zen center here, for all people. How can I not care? Those flowers spoil the whole room.''

Soen-sa said, "If somebody gives real flowers to Buddha, Buddha is happy. If somebody else likes plastic flowers and gives them to Buddha, Buddha is also happy. Buddha is not attached to name and form, he doesn't care whether the flowers are real or plastic, he only cares about the person's mind. These women who are offering plastic flowers have very pure minds, and their action is Bodhisattva action. Your mind rejects plastic flowers, so you have separated the universe into good and bad, beautiful and ugly. So your action is not Bodhisattva action. Only keep Buddha's mind. Then you will have no hindrance. Real flowers are good; plastic flowers are good. This mind is like the great sea, into which all waters flow -- the Hudson River, the Charles River, the Yellow River, Chinese water, American water, clean water, dirty water, salt water, clear water. The sea doesn't say, 'Your water is dirty, you can't flow into me.' It accepts all waters and mixes them and all become sea. So if you keep the Buddha mind, your mind will be like the great sea. This is the great sea of enlightenment.''

The student bowed and said, "I am very grateful for your teaching.''

Zen is Understanding self

One day a student from Chicago came to the Providence Zen Center and asked Seung Sahn Soen-Sa, "What is Zen?"

Soen-sa held his Zen stick above his head and said, "Do you understand?"

The student said, "I don't know."

Soen-sa said, "This don't know mind is you. Zen is understanding yourself."

"What do you understand about me? Teach me."

Soen-sa said, "In a cookie factory, different cookies are baked in the shape of animals, cars, people, and airplanes. They all have different names and forms, but they are all made from the same dough, and they all taste the same.

"In the same way, all things in the universe - the sun, the moon, the stars, mountains, rivers, people, and so forth - have different names and forms, but they are all made from the same substance. The universe is organized into pairs of opposites: light and darkness, man and woman, sound and silence, good and bad. But all these opposites are mutual, because they are made from the same substance. Their names and their forms are different, but their substance is the same. Names and forms are made by your thinking. If you are not thinking and have no attachment to name and form, then all substance is one. Your don't know mind cuts off all thinking. This is your substance. The substance of this Zen stick and your own substance are the same. You are this stick; this stick is you."

The student said, "Some philosophers say this substance is energy, or mind, or God, or matter. Which is the truth?"

Soen-sa said, "Four blind men went to the zoo and visited the elephant. One blind man touched its side and said, 'The elephant is like a wall.' The next blind man touched its trunk and said, 'The elephant is like a snake.' The next blind man touched its leg and said, 'The elephant is like a column.' The last blind man touched its tail and said, 'The elephant is like a broom.' Then the four blind men started to fight, each one believing that his opinion was the right one. Each only understood the part he had touched; none of them understood the whole.

"Substance has no name and no form. Energy, mind, God, and matter are all name and form. Substance is the Absolute. Having name and form is having opposites. So the whole world is like the blind men fighting among themselves. Not understanding yourself is not understanding the truth. That is why there is fighting among ourselves. If all the people in the world understood themselves, they would attain the Absolute. Then the world would be at peace. World peace is Zen."

The student said, "How can practicing Zen make world peace?"

Soen-sa said, "People desire money, fame, sex, food, and rest. All this desire is thinking. Thinking is suffering. Suffering means no world peace. Not thinking is not suffering. Not suffering means world peace. World peace is the Absolute. The Absolute is I."

The student said, "How can I understand the Absolute?"

Soen-sa said, "You must first understand yourself."

"How can I understand myself?"

Soen-sa held up the Zen stick and said, "Do you see this?"

He then quickly hit the table with the stick and said, "Do you hear this? This stick, this sound, your mind - are they the same or different?"

The student said, "The same."

Soen-sa said, "If you say they are the same, I will hit you thirty times. If you say they are different, I will still hit you thirty times. Why?"

The student was silent.

Soen-sa shouted, "KATZ!!!" Then he said, "Spring comes, the grass grows by itself."

From Dropping Ashes On The Buddha: The Teaching of Zen Master Seung Sahn edited by Stephen Mitchell

What is Zen?

Zen is very simple... What are you?

In this whole world everyone searches for happiness outside, but nobody understands their true self inside.

Everybody says, "I" -- "I want this, I am like that..." But nobody understands this "I." Before you were born, where did your I come from? When you die, where will your I go? If you sincerely ask, "what am I?" sooner or later you will run into a wall where all thinking is cut off. We call this "don't know."

Zen is keeping this "don't know" mind always and everywhere.

When walking, standing, sitting,
     lying down, speaking, being
     silent, moving, being still.
At all times, in all places, without
     interruption -- what is this?
One mind is infinite kalpas.

Meditation in Zen means keeping don't-know mind when bowing, chanting and sitting Zen. This is formal Zen practice. And when doing something, just do it. When driving, just drive; when eating, just eat; when working, just work.

Finally, your don't-know mind will become clear. Then you can see the sky, only blue. You can see the tree, only green. Your mind is like a clear mirror. Red comes, the mirror is red; white comes the mirror is white. A hungry person comes, you can give him food; a thirsty person comes, you can give her something to drink. There is no desire for myself, only for all beings. That mind is already enlightenment, what we call Great Love, Great Compassion, the Great Bodhisattva Way. It's very simple, not difficult!

So Buddha said that all beings have Buddha-nature (enlightenment nature). But Zen Master Joju said that a dog has no Buddha-nature. Which one is right? Which one is wrong? If you find that, you find the true way. 

13 April 2008

Wisdom from Zen Masters

The greatest achievement is selflessness.
The greatest worth is self-mastery.
The greatest quality is seeking to serve others.
The greatest precept is continual awareness.
The greatest medicine is the emptiness of everything.
The greatest action is not conforming with the worlds ways.
The greatest magic is transmuting the passions.
The greatest generosity is non-attachment.
The greatest goodness is a peaceful mind.
The greatest patience is humility.
The greatest effort is not concerned with results.
The greatest meditation is a mind that lets go.
The greatest wisdom is seeing through appearances.


Do not try to become anything.
Do not make yourself into anything.
Do not be a meditator.
Do not become enlightened.
When you sit, let it be.
What you walk, let it be.
Grasp at nothing.
Resist nothing.

If you haven’t wept deeply, you haven’t begun to meditate.

Ajhan Chah

My favourite Painting

I and only I

I, and only I can take me, everywhere I go.

I, and only I remember, everything I know.

You can walk with me,

but I don't need you to go.

I can go the road alone,

or we can share it for a time.

I do not belong to you,

and you in turn aren't mine!

People known along the way.

People come and go.

I'm my only truest friend,

the only one I truly know.

I can listen to your words.

Your thoughts might help me grow.

But, I and only I can take me everywhere I go.

I can make my own mistakes.

The ones I make are mine.

I'm the one who tells myself,

I'll make it through just fine!

I came into this world all by myself.

When I leave it will be the same.

The part that was the in between,

was just a learning game.

By:Judi Jefferies

Don't Assume

Don't assume they know you love them. 
Show and tell them so. 
Through any type of circumstance, 
they could swiftly go! 
After they have died, and are at heavens gate, 
that is not the time to tell them. 
That is much too late!! Tell them that you love them now. 
Show them that you care. 
In the hustle and bustle of your day, just remember what I’ve said. 
They won’t always be here. 
Someday they may be gone. 
This may be the only minute, that you have time to say: 
I love you every second, of every single day!
By: Judi Jefferies

12 April 2008

The Rope

The story tells about a mountain climber, who wanted to climb the highest mountain. He begun his adventure after many years of preparation, but since he wanted the glory just for himself, he decided to climb the mountain alone.

 He started to climb but it begun to get very late, and instead of preparing his tent to camp, he kept climbing until it got very dark.

 The night felt heavy in the heights of the mountain, and the man could not see anything. All was black. Zero visibility, and the moon and the stars were covered by the clouds.

 As he was climbing, only a few feet away from the top of the mountain, he slipped and fell into the air, falling at a great speed. The climber could only see black spots as he went down, and the terrible sensation of being sucked by gravity. He kept falling… and in those moments of great fear, it came to his mind all the good and bad episodes of his life.

 He was thinking now about how close death was getting, when all of a sudden he felt the rope tied to his waist pull him very hard.

 His body was hanging in the air. Only the rope was holding him, and in that moment of stillness he had no other choice but to scream:


 All of a sudden, a deep voice coming from the sky answered:

        -¿What do you want me to do?- Save me God!

           -¿Do you really think I can save you?

-Of course I believe You can


 There was a moment of silence; and the man decided to hold on to the rope with all his strength.

 The rescue team tells, that the next day a climber was found dead and frozen… his body hanging from a rope. His hands holding tight to it…


          ¿And you?  ¿how attached are you to your rope? 

¿Will you let go?

 Don’t ever doubt the things from God. You never should say that He has forgotten or abandoned you. Don’t ever think that He does not take care of you. Remember that He is always holding you with His right hand.

























11 April 2008

Why Intelligent People Tend To Be Unhappy

Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know. - Ernest Hemingway, author and journalist, Nobel laureate (1899-1961) Hemingway, people and four wives would help who took his own life in of unhappiness. He lived and an unknown number of him to develop happiness 1961, knew his share of both intelligent through two world wars, the Great Depression, failed romantic relationships, none of which if he knew how.  As Hemingway's quote was based on his life experience, I will base the following speculation on both my personal and my professional experience as a sociologist. Not enough study exists to quote on this subject. Western society is not set up to nurture intelligent children and adults, the way it dotes over athletes and sports figures, especially the outstanding ones. While we have the odd notable personality such as Albert Einstein, we also have many extremely intelligent people working in occupations that are considered among the lowliest, as may be attested by a review of the membership lists of Mensa (the club for the top two percent on intelligence scales). Education systems in countries whose primary interest is in wealth accumulation encourage heroes in movies, war and sports, but not in intellectual development. Super intelligent people manage, but few reach the top of the business or social ladder. Children develop along four streams: intellectual, physical, emotional (psychological) and social. In classrooms, the smartest kids tend to be left out of more activities by other children than they are included in. They are "odd," they are the geeks, they are social outsiders. In other words, they do not develop socially as well as they may develop intellectually or even physically where opportunities may exist for more progress. Their emotional development, characterized by their ability to cope with risky or stressful situations, especially over long periods of time, also lags behind that of the average person. Adults tend to believe that intelligent kids can deal with anything because they are intellectually superior. This inevitably includes situations where the intelligent kids have neither knowledge nor skills to support their experience. They go through the tough times alone. Adults don't understand that they need help and other kids don't want to associate with kids the social leaders say are outsiders. As a result we have many highly intelligent people whose social development progresses much slower than that of most people and they have trouble coping with the stressors of life that present themselves to everyone. It should come as no surprise that the vast majority of prison inmates are socially and emotionally underdeveloped or maldeveloped and a larger than average percentage of them are more intelligent than the norm. Western society provides the ideal incubator for social misfits and those with emotional coping problems. When it comes to happiness, people who are socially inept and who have trouble coping emotionally with the exigencies of life would not be among those you should expect to be happy. This may be changing in the 21st century as the geeks gain recognition as people with great potential, especially as people who might make their fortune in the world of high technology. Geeks may be more socially accepted than in the past, but unless they receive more assistance with their social and emotional  development, most are destined to be unhappy as they mature in the world of adults. People with high intelligence, be they children or adults, still rank as social outsiders in most situations, including their skills to be good mates and parents. Moreover, they tend to see more of the tragedy in the communites and countries they live in, and in the world, than the average person whose primary source of news and information is comedy shows on television. Tragedy is easier to find than compassion, even though compassion likely exists in greater proportion in most communities.
Author: Bill Allin 

When Money Became God

"I don't know whether my life has been a success or a failure. But not having any anxiety about becoming one instead of the other, and just taking things as they come along, I've had a lot of extra time to enjoy life." - Harpo Marx (the "silent" Marx brother—he played the harp beautifully) I have often wondered if Harpo never spoke because his other brothers talked so much that Harpo couldn't get a word in edgewise. (And if the reversal of letters in his name--Oprah--inspired the mother of the television personality, who named her own company Harpo Productions.) If I could pick one defining characteristic of western culture it would be that we teach the need for success, particularly success in an occupation that brings considerable income. We teach, by example if not by word, that those who do not make a lot of money are failures of society, people who must be supported by charity because they can't make it through life "successfully" on their own. We do not widely teach that survival and a minimally acceptable lifestyle has value, despite the fact that these are defining characteristics of the rest of the living world. We do not generally teach that anything is more important than the acquisition of money, with the possible exception of ways of spending money that bring comfort and recognition. Money being a man-made concept (gender bias inserted on purpose), people who believe that money is the most important thing in life find themselves progressively less able to accept that anything other than that which has been made by people has value. We conquer and destroy non-renewable natural resources and genetically alter renewable ones to suit the needs of our aggressive industries. And extinguish the rest. Any concept of a supernatural being--despite lip service being paid by many in business--becomes that which cannot be believed or that which is of little importance because western business has created its own deity. Except for those who derive a very good income from religion, each of which defines its own version of God. Living a full life means reaching a pinnacle of success before retirement, the pinnacle being defined at least by public recognition if not by actual financial income. Anything that is not within the control of business is given short shrift in terms of having importance to society. Artists are great, for example, only if they are recognized by wealthy patrons. As Harpo Marx said in the quote, people give so much recognition to the importance of financial success that they spend much of their time thinking about it--how to get money and how to spend it. The burden of that goal, which is unreachable by many people, has caused multitudes of us to suffer anxiety which we relieve with drugs, exercise programs, religious devotion, mental illness, addictions and shopping. Few will admit that they teach these values to their children. They do it by example, by being role models for that way of life. Most children follow the values of their parents, if not as adolescents then later in life. Even television commercials and magazine advertisements tweak our brains to believe that we must strive to be better than we are now. The state of affairs in most western cities attests to the fact that something has broken down in the creation of this man-made capitalistic heaven. We have so many  social problems, but no solutions because a solution would require that we teach people that something other than money is important. That could not happen because those who control much of the money in our societies ensure that such heresy could never make it into our school curriculum. Business leaders tell us that our social and community problems are necessary consequences of our success in capitalist enterprise. On more than one occasion I have been faced with this argument while being interviewed on conservative radio stations in the US. FOX News lives it. Those who believe that there is something more important in life than money, its acquisition, investment and dispersal must teach others, beginning with their own children. They must speak about how so many lives are being ruined by devoting them to being the pawns of business. They must speak and write to others about what is more important than money. They must live the role model of a non-money-controlled life that is more fulfilling than those who see the Donald Trumps of the world as their role models and life aspirations. They must teach that you can seek happiness by chasing money, but you will never find it. Money chasers never have enough, thus by definition can never be truly happy. Does it require a revolution in thought, a massive overturn of the predominant way of life in the western world? No. It requires only for you to understand that there are more important things in life than money and that the reckless pursuit of it will prevent anyone from finding those better things. Find the better things yourself. Then tell others. Change happens one person at a time. It happens in person, face to face. For those who believe that there is nothing more important than money, there will be nothing more important. Understand that they will be tirelessly aggressive about teaching their money-chasing values to everyone they can. They already dominate some aspects and activities of schools. If money were really worth chasing, then rich people should be happy. They aren't. They just like to show off as if they were. They don't even know what happiness is. They tell themselves that having money is what makes them happy. Maybe it does in their minds. But their having money is not likely to make you happy. Money is not a god. We have no need to worship it. We have many other needs which have greater importance and which are not being met by many people. The money god doesn't care for the failures of life.
Author: Bill Allin

08 April 2008

Awareness and Experience

Let us consider what we all call experience. 

The entire universe, life, time, space, our family, everyone we know, is in this moment simply experience to us. We experience all the above through five senses, so I am calling all experience, sensations. These sensations are then given name and form by our ability to think and make distinctions.

Stop for a moment and simply experience the totality of your experience simply as sensations now.

Notice that what you experience, your sensations, are changing every moment and therefore cannot be described. In order to describe your experience of Now, you would have to speak volumes and as soon as you spoke, your experience would be already different.

Notice if when you experience like this, without trying to quantify or qualify your sensations, if there is a sense of boundary between you and your experience.

Notice that usually we think we can describe our experience and in this idea there is a sense of“ I”. Notice that in trying to describe our sensations, this activity appears to give the non-existent “ I” a sense of control.

Now notice that you are aware of any experience. This awareness is already present. Whilst being this awareness, see if you can describe awareness.

You will notice that this is impossible.

Where is it?


Are there any boundaries?


What is in it?


We have two words awareness and experience, but really they are only words. We can’t describe either.

Notice if there is any boundary between awareness and experience.
We have the capacity to objectify experience and then it seems like there is an observer and what is observed. This gives a sense of “ I”. From this we can see that the sense of “ I” is an activity and does not actually exist. As soon as the activity ceases, like in deep sleep, there is no sense of “ I”

When experiencing the totality of our experience of Now, there is no possibility to objectify, hence no sense of “ I”.

Now notice what happens if you would like to have a different experience from the experience you are having.
Firstly, is it possible? If the thought that it is possible to have a different experience that what we are having is entertained, then it looks as if “I” can do something about it.

As soon as we do not want the experience we are having, the not wanting it is also an experience and adds another layer into the tapestry of experience. Simply, what it boils down to is tightening up. Mostly we never consciously examine this tightening up and have an unconscious belief that this tightening up helps. Very often, we have resistance to this tightening up, which locks it in.
What we can notice about experience, is that it is always changing. When we don’t want the experience we are having, we freeze-frame it, or objectify it, because we can’t get rid of something that is changing. So in order to get rid of an experience or change it, we have to make it into something.

Check and see if what we make our experience into when we don’t want it, actually exists?

The only human drama there is, is not wanting the experience/ sensations we are having now.
See if this is true!
Not wanting the experience we are having, feels uncomfortable in the body and this registers as a problem. Our thinking is the capacity to solve problems, so our thinking tries to help by projecting what the problem is and what the solution could be. When we don’t want the experience we are having, I am going to call this resisting, all that happens is that our experience gets more intense or subjectively we call it worse. Now that it is worse we don’t want it either, so we resist again, which makes it worse and now that it is worse we don’t want it either, so we resist, ad infinitum. In a matter of moments we feel out of control, the experience we don’t want is still there and we feel overwhelmed. Our experience feels bigger than us. Most people spend their entire lives feeling overwhelmed. There is a sense of too much to do and there is a constant underlying feeling of stress and the feeling that we have to run just to survive.

For most of us, the habit is to tighten up as soon as we wake, if we don’t wake up already contracted, from what we have dreamt. We do this by thinking of what we have to do this day and unconsciously or consciously believing that this tightening up somehow helps us to survive.

Once we have tightened up, this registers as a problem and then our mind tries to help ………….. etc

In western psychology, what we call the subconscious mind is everything we never want to experience again and everything we think we want to experience, in other words all our unfilled desires, that we think will make us happy. All of this is our resistance to our experience NOW.
This is what our thinking produces when we have sensations we are resisting, in trying to help us by identifying what the problem is and what the solution could be.
As soon as we think we know what the problem is, in other words, whats wrong outside or inside of us, we project that what is “wrong” needs changing or fixing. We spend enormous amounts of energy trying to do the impossible. The non-existent “ I” trying to change, fix or get rid of what doesn’t exist.

Stop. Notice what your mind is constantly busy with.
Notice if what your mind is working with in this moment brings you peace. Could you for a moment simply let go of believing that thinking will help? Could you let go of believing that tightening up will help?

In this moment, being embodied awareness, aware in every cell, simply being, how is it? Notice if there is any boundary.
Notice that all experience is welcome. Some call this unconditional love or everything.
It is never the experience we are having that troubles us, it is whether or not there is an automatic habit of trying to not have the experience we are already having that troubles us.

Notice where in your body you experience not wanting the experience you are having. How does it feel? Can you notice or find anything worthwhile about resisting your experience? Could you let go of resisting having the experience you are having?

Most people measure themselves and their lives by their experience. What we could call waking up, is a shift, where we no longer believe in the describing of our sensations. In other words, we stop believing our thinking and the whole activity of trying to separate from our sensations.

Notice, that, That which is aware, is not a thing, not an object that you can sense. Some call this nothing. Where does this begin and end?

No beginning no end. This answers the koan, where were you before you were born.

A famous sage said, “When I know I am nothing this is wisdom and when I know I am everything this is love and between the two my life flows”.

By Isaac Shapiro