Acintita Sutta: Content in Not-Knowing

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.

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Schrodinger’s Dharma – A Cat Reveals Buddha-nature

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.

BUD_CATOM

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Pope Francis And The Dao De Jing

Pope Francis And The Dao De Jing
David Xi-Ken Astor

Over the past few days we have been experiencing the social reaction to the election of the 266th Christian Catholic Pope.  Like many former Catholics, I have been drawn by curiosity to see what this change may be all about.  If what the first few days may teach us, it will be quite a change.  Pope Francis is bringing an old message back into the light of day, one that seems to have been muddled over the recent decades in our technological and capitalistic driven age.   This old message was also one that was echoed 2,500 years ago by Siddhartha, the Buddha.  Pope Francis is wasting no time in issuing an appeal that in the limited time he has in Rome we must return to the basics of social justice as it is reflected in responsible economic policies, having compassion for the less fortunate in our communities, in the focus of doing good, and in protecting the world environment.   He said, “We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness.”  A statement that is universal to a spiritual path.  He went on to say that, “Let us never forget the authentic power is service.  Only those who serve with love are able to protect.”

As I think about his message I am reminded of the expansive thoughtfulness found in Chapter 60 of the Dao De Jing that speaks to this encompassing ideal.  When I say encompassing, I mean universal.  So lets look at this Chapter to experience the lessons that point directly to the responsibility of social governance.

“Bringing proper order to a great state is like cooking a small fish.
When way-making (dao) is used in overseeing the world,
The ghosts of the departed will not have spiritual potency.
In fact, it is not that the ghosts will not have spiritual potency,
But rather that they will not use this potency to harm people.
Not only will the ghosts not use their potency to harm people
But the sages will not harm people either.
It is because the ghosts and sages do not harm
That their power (de) combine to promote order in the world.”

COMMENTARY:

First remember the historical context and language of this text.  It is Chinese and developed over the period 403-221 BCE.  This period in pre-Buddhist China paid homage to how ancestors influenced world order in many ways.  Like in the time when Siddhartha lived it was believed that the realm of ghosts existed.  The Dao De Jing, however, has been used by Buddhists throughout the ages as a tool that underscores many of the valued lessons also found in the dharma.  In our 21st century reality some creative re-description is called for in bringing this chapter into contemporary understanding, but in doing so takes nothing away from the core message.

While this verse identifies the expectation of the state, the importance of social responsibility can also be extended to all social institutions: governments, religious, courts, military, educational, and the like.  For effective leadership requires patience and a light touch on those that assume control.  The first line can be interpreted in several ways.  The reference to small fish for example can be pointing to the importance not to over cook them taking care to fry the fish briefly and without much ado.  The message here is subtle and the language used is deliberate.  The word “overseeing,” suggests a need for a soft hand in concentrating and crafting governing policies in order to achieve useful and productive outcomes for the greater good, the importance of a pragmatic approach to applying social control.

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Do Not Leave Your Baggage Unattended: The Art Of Skillful Detachment

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.

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