Death: Not What It Seems

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Finish Line: Overnight Suicide Prevention Walk San Diego 2017

After today’s meditation in our Blue Sky Zen Morning Service, I’m convinced that Death, once the “dust” and the emotional reaction to dying, settles, feels like meditation.

That to be dead is to be pure awareness, consciousness so vast that it perceives itself.

It hears the birds, and the neighbors walking by, and those sounds are oneself. It sees bugs crawling on the flowers on the altar, and it is the bug and the flower too, which now fills the awareness for love, in love with its own beingness.

There is no need for embodiment, for movement is in the awareness, and it is everywhere. Embodiment into form is actually a type of prison, and formalization, a containment into individuality, that which is not individual in its fullest form.

I’m afraid of the pain of dying, the loss of my attachments and loves, but truly, nothing is ever lost. All of our dead beloveds are right here, in the space between our atoms, our cells, the molecules that individuate us, and all the space in between.

Death is a grieving of a loss of companionship in individuated form. But that person is still here, still integrated into the vastness of consciousness.

I had a dream once that I was in a car that plunged off a cliff.   I was in the passenger seat, terrified as we crashed and died. But the dream didn’t end there. Then, I was dead, but it was hilarious. All I could do was laugh, because my fear had been so ridiculous, for everything was already the same. Just no particular body.

It might take some time for this insight to be integrated into daily consciousness, but it’s a relief, and it’s a biggie.

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Is Buddhism A Religion?

christandbuddhahuggingIt depends on who you ask. That is, it depends upon the form and the way Buddhism is practiced. For some, yes, it is religion. For others, no. Those of us that practice  Buddhism as a non-religion tend to look upon those that practice religious forms as good Buddhists who are nonetheless either incapable of actualizing, or otherwise missing the ultimate, non-dual point of the Buddha’s teachings. This may seem to be a put-down, but it is not intended as one. Just as there are Catholics and Greek Orthodox who are extremely traditional and rule-oriented versus, say, a Gnostic Christian who follows the spirit, rather than the letter of the scriptural law, there are Buddhists who are rule-oriented and scripturally bound.

Telepathy & The True Nature Of Reality

Consciousness

The reason that science hasn’t been able to test telepathy is because they’re looking for the wrong thing. Telepathy isn’t about transmitting messages. In telepathy, there isn’t technically a sender and a receiver. This is because telepathy exists outside of time, in that non-local soup where all our consciousnesses connect.

The Japanese concept of Ishin- is closer to what telepathy actually is than a transmission of messages. It means ‘unspoken mutual understanding’, and is often translated as ‘heart to heart communication.’ In Zen, it means ‘direct mind transmission’, and it is indeed through Zen that this concept found its way into Japanese culture, via China, from India, where Ishin-denshin referred to the first Dharma transmission between Gautama Buddha and Mahākāśyapa in the Flower Sermon.

What is Zen?

BodhidharmabyYoshitoshi1887Some forms of Buddhism center on monastic practice, or other aspects of the Buddha’s teachings, but Zen centers on meditation and mindfulness. It is a word that comes to us from the word Dhyana, which is Sanskrit for meditation. When Bodhidharma* brought Buddhist meditation from India to China around 527 AD, the word dhyana  was translated by the local Chinese to ch’an. From China, Buddhist meditation spread to Korea and Japan, where ch’an was pronounced by the locals as son and zen, respectively. Blame the habits of the human tongue and palate, then, for the exotics, because the word zen simply means meditation.

However, there are implications to the word. Consider the Buddha himself, with his exquisite Flower Sermon, understood only by his disciple Mahākāśyapa.  Ananda was the Buddha’s cousin and principle attendant, and stood out for his retentive memory. Ananda wrote down all the teachings he heard,  passing on the Sūtra Piṭaka (The sayings and discourses of the Buddha, plus poetry) part of the Pali Canon, the earliest written form of the Buddha’s Teachings. But Ananda, who was known for being well-liked, was not the most realized of the Buddha’s disciples.

It is  Mahākāśyapa, the one who understood the wordless teaching of the Flower Sermon,  that inherited the dhyana meditation lineage. When we read the lineage chant at evening service, we are, ideally, reading a list of unbroken telepathically transmitted enlightenment.

When a person consciously holding the Buddha’s transmission is leading a retreat, offering a Mondo session,  conducting an interview, or walking down the street and greeting people, (s)he transmits more than just words or instruction. There is both exoteric transmission, and esoteric transmission underway. It is a face-to-face transmission, best understood by the idea of one candle lighting another.

In this way, meditation, and various understandings and other transmissions of dharma (which basically refers to fundamental mechanics of nature and the universe, often briefly defined as ‘truth’) are passed on from teacher to student, down the line of time. From Bodhidharma’s Chinese lineage, it was Nampo Shomyo Zenji (Chanshi, Zenji, see the pattern?) who brought the Buddha’s transmission to Japan. And from Japan, it is Junpo Kelly Roshi, my Zen Master, that has transformed this living tradition into a more palatable vehicle, leaving out the racism, misogyny, rigidity and any non-inclusive and unnecessary traits, and refocusing the order on meditation: the Buddha’s dhyana, or zen.

So that’s zen – basically a huge, psychic game of telephone from around 500 B.C. Pretty cool, huh?

*Bodhidharma is known to my order as Pu Ti Ta Mo Chanshi, the 29th Zen Master in our Hollow Bones Rinzai Zen Lineage.

Agnosticm – admitting what we might not know

Idon'tknowTo some, being agnostic, or admitting you don’t know, seems a position of weakness. But let’s think about it. Being uncertain is uncomfortable. Not knowing – whether we’re talking about the existence of ‘God’, the love someone else feels for us, or the nature of reality, is uncomfortable. It’s not for the weak of heart.