by Wayne Ren-Cheng
Across Buddhist traditions the Three Refuges (P., tritratna) is the initial step for all on the Noble Path. In the Chinese Ch’an tradition reciting the Three Refuges (also known as the Three Treasures or Three Jewels of Buddhism) is how a person “becomes” a Buddhist, it is known as Taking Refuge (P., sarana). It is a recognition that at any time, when needed a Buddhist can return to, or find sanctuary in the Three Refuges. It is not an act of conversion. It is a choice. We can choose approach the Noble Path with the knowledge that Siddhartha was a human being like ourselves, one whose example we can follow. We can approach the Noble Path with the realization that the dharma is a dynamic reality. We can approach the Noble Path alongside others who have similar goals and are searching for similar experiences.
The precise meanings of each of jewels, their interconnectedness, and how to honor each differs between traditions, while the intent remains steadfast. The intent being that once on the Noble Path the practitioner can return to the ideals of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha whenever needed to reinforce and strengthen practice.
by Wayne Ren-Cheng
In many aspects of human endeavor competition plays a valuable role. Competition spurs new invention and new extremes of human physical and mental strengths. Competition can also be a contributing causal factor in fear, hatred, anxiety, frustration, anger and envy; all negative dispositions that can tag along in the unconscious mind. In Chan practice there is no room for dispositions and actions that hinder progress. That is why, in the sangha is no place for competition between members. In Buddhist practice there is no place for competition because all people are unique expressions of the Universe, so one’s level of progress cannot be measured with another’s.
Siddhartha, the historical Buddha didn’t have to imagine the detrimental effects that competition could cause. After all, he had been to school, had siblings, had a father’s legacy to look up to, and he’d experienced who could deprive themselves the most when he traveled with the ascetics. The Awakened One must have contemplated what aspects of human existence were most likely to cause the arising of competition and conflict. In the Acintita Sutta he offered four and the negative consequences of pursuing them.
by Wayne Ren-Cheng
The Buddhist concept that “form is no other than emptiness, emptiness no other than form” found most famously in the Heart Sutra can be difficult to wrap the mind around. Emptiness is well . . . empty, and form has substance so how each can be both requires a thought experiment followed by a realization of experience. Today scientific research is proving aspects of Buddhism, in particular the changes that occur as a result of meditative practice to have beneficial effects on the bodymind. To better understand the conundrum of emptiness and form there is a scientific thought experiment that is useful.
In Buddhist philosophy everything, all dharma is causally conditioned. It becomes what it is in a particular moment as a result of the causal process of the Universe, of its interaction with other phenomena. This would not possible if all dharma had inherent and permanent form. It has neither aspect and until it is acted upon physically and/or mentally it has only potential (emptiness) to take on form. Causal conditioning, the who, what, when, where, why and how of the causal process enacts the transformation from emptiness to form. Very philosophical concept but it can be experienced if one is mindful. Still, for Westerners caught up in concrete definitions and concrete descriptions it isn’t an easy concept. Let’s look to a contemporary science model for help.
Do Not Leave Your Baggage Unattended: The Art of Skillful Detachment
Ven. Dr. Jim Eubanks, Sensei
The following Dharma talk was given by our root teacher, Ven. Eubanks, Sensei, on February 18, 2010 in St. Louis at the CPB Meditation Center.
Acculturation and Attachment: What It Is and What It Is Not
No matter how much we seek absolute personal sovereignty (what is traditionally called “free will”), a deep and honest look at the human condition reveals that existential baggage is unavoidable because we live in a causal world. The key is to make sure that the baggage we carry is on our terms to the extent it can be, and that it contains expressions of ourselves that we can be proud of and use skillfully. No matter how long I sit in the silence of a secluded forest, the causal conditions that converge to make me the kind of human being I am, do not go away. The Zen master who develops Alzheimer’s will not enlighten himself out of his condition. I am a causally-conditioned “expression of the Universe,” and there are many causal conditions that are not up to my wants OR non-wants. No amount of philosophy cuts me off from those conditions which create me, no matter who I am or how long I’ve been sitting. Instead, it is the goal of the reflective and considerate person to understand the major sources of influence in his or her life, to “attend” to the baggage that he or she does and must carry. There is a term for this existential baggage: acculturation.