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Thursday Zen

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  • John Daniewicz
    Thursday, Feb. 14 -- Last chapter of The Feeling Buddha, Conclusion. Thursday, Feb. 21 -- Peg Syverson visit to do Inquiry Thursday, Feb. 28 -- Start new
    Message 1 of 98 , Feb 13, 2013
    Thursday, Feb. 14 -- Last chapter of The Feeling Buddha, "Conclusion."
    Thursday, Feb. 21 -- Peg Syverson visit to do Inquiry
    Thursday, Feb. 28 -- Start new book, "If You're Lucky, Your Heart Will Break: Field Notes From a Zen Life" by James Ishmael Ford
    Because it is kind of hard to remember and take to heart all that is in "The Feeling Buddha", I have attached and included below a summary of the first part of the book which describes the Four Noble Truths. Next week, I will send out a summary of the book's discussion of the Eight Fold Path. The week after that, I will send out a description of my own attempts to look deeply per the Third Noble Truth. 

    The Four Noble Truths

    The First and Foremost Teaching of Siddhartha Gautama, (affectionately known as Buddha or an Enlightened One), as described by David Brazier in “The Feeling Buddha” and by Margaret Syverson in a talk at Live Oak Unitarian Universalist Zen on 11/1/2012


    Noble Truth I. Adversity exists.

    Afflictions and suffering, both physical, such as sickness and death, and mental, such as anxiety, depression, and anger, are one part of the human condition. Some of this suffering can be escaped from, e.g., if we are hungry, we can eat; if we are sick, we can take our medicine. However, other parts of this suffering are unavoidable such as aging and death. For these parts, they should be faced courageously with nobility rather than attempting undignified escape. At the worldly end of escapism is excessive alcohol and food consumption as well as being dominated by the pursuit of money, comfort, and pleasure. At the spiritual end of escapism is asceticism and pleading with heaven. [Brazier]


    “When we look deeply into ourselves, we are ashamed of our infirmities. In the media we are constantly assailed by images of health and beauty. . . . The Buddha is saying that there is no shame in being imperfect. . . . Ideally, we would always be surrounded by the pleasant, the beautiful, and the comfortable. . . .This is the vision of heaven, and religions are as apt to trade on it as are the advertising agents of consumerism. Our lives do not conform to this heavenly picture so we feel a corresponding shame. Then we either spend huge amounts of money hiding the fact that we are not perfect specimens and distracting ourselves from the unpleasant aspects of our lives, or we wear ourselves out in supposedly spiritual procedures that enable us to believe that we are, or are on the way to becoming, members of the chosen few who will live in heaven. . . . The Buddha, however, taught that it is better to live in the human world than in heaven. Buddhism is not a quest for heaven. This fact alone marks it out as different from other spiritual paths. . . . The Buddha’s teaching starts with an assault upon the shame we feel about our suffering. . . . The salvation of humankind will be found in the practice of a noble response to existential reality.” [Brazier, p. 54]


    “There is a great difference between appearances and reality. The desire to achieve the appearance of nobility often destroys the substance of nobility. The most noble thing that Siddhartha saw in his early life was not the wealth and pageantry that surrounded his illustrious family, but the gait of a passing holy man who walked through the town square unaffected by the hustle and bustle. . .  This person was noble precisely because he was not ruffled by concerns about keeping up appearances, nor by anxieties about the ups and downs of circumstance. He was noble in his chosen poverty. [p. 58]


    Noble Truth II. Passion, fire, and energy arise from adversity.

    When afflictions happen, we have feelings and emotions that are a longing that things be otherwise. Buddha called this a thirst even though it is often translated as craving. It is natural and noble to have feelings in these circumstances such as grief, rage, humiliation. “Problems do not arise from the fact of having feelings. Problems arise from what we do with them or from our attempts to avoid having them.” [p. 64]

    This is a dangerous time. Our response to affliction can be out of all proportion to the event itself because it releases what has been stored up in us for a long time. “Every day there are many little griefs and from time to time, we suffer a major loss which reminds us in the most penetrating way of the truth of our existential situation: everything changes; nothing is substantial; and anything can be a cause of grief. The noble person has the capacity to live vibrantly in a world which is intrinsically both wonderful and terrible. This is not achieved by repressing feelings, nor by being ruled by them, but by accepting them, valuing them and wisely containing them. Such is the making of character. [pp. 72,73]


    The thirst that arises from affliction often directs us towards one of three negative objectives. The first negative objective, called “Greed,” is pleasure seeking in order to be distracted and get temporary relief. The second negative objective, called “Hatred,” is to take our aggressions out on either ourselves or others whom we blame or hate for being associated with the affliction. The third negative objective, called “Delusion,” is seeking oblivion through alcohol, drugs, or suicide. [Brazier]


    Noble Truth III. The fire that arises from adversity can be contained and constructively used.

    The energy of passion can be contained and used beneficially. In our culture we have two general ways to handle strong emotion: to act it out or to stuff it down. The Buddha taught a middle way: not a way half way in between -- acting out a little and stuffing a little. Rather a third way that is distinct from the other two. Containment is the third way. It is about turning away from the objective of the emotion (the Greed, Hatred, and Delusion objectives) in order to look at the emotion itself, about being curious about how the emotion feels in the body, noticing the stories we tell around it. It is about spending enough time sitting with it that we get to see what is underneath the emotion. Two key questions that can help us find liberation are:

    ·         How is this emotion providing some gratification for me?

    ·         How can this emotion be dangerous for me?

    This eventually allows us access to the deep primal emotions that are buried beneath all our stories that are the result of deep early conditioning and shaming.[Syverson]


    Some examples:

    • Gandhi returned to India, a lawyer newly graduated from Oxford.  He was traveling on a train and was thrown off for being in the "white" car. He was filled with rage and humiliation.  He sat all night in the train station. By morning, he knew what he had to do.
    • Peg was in a faculty meeting. A colleague said she had read journals in Peg's field and had concluded that there was no scholarship or research in that field. Peg's first feeling was rage, followed closely by the shame and insecurity of wondering if perhaps this was true and there was no scholarship of worth in her field. Yet, she was able to turn toward the colleague, as the faculty prepared to witness bloodshed, and say "Really?" This disarmed the situation.
    • Candice Lightner founded MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers)  after her 13-year-old daughter was killed by a drunk driver


    The middle way is not through distraction but to see into the pain which is usually stemming from some sense of lack. We do not realize that we ourselves construct that sense of lack. In order to see this, we must turn toward the feelings without entertaining the story. We must pay attention to what is actually happening in the situations that bring up strong feelings. Finally the most deep primal beliefs can be met. Containing emotions in this way allows for the freeing up of enormous amounts of energy that are usually drained away by our conditioned stories of "I'm not good enough" or "I never get a fair break." This allows us to become an agent of freedom in a situation by opening up a huge space of possibilities. [Syverson]


    “Potentially, we are all riders of great dragons. The dragon is a fire animal. In fairy stories the hero has to either get the better of the dragon or get the assistance of the dragon. The former plot is typical of western fairy stories. The dragon ends up dead. In eastern fairy stories the outcome is more commonly that the hero gains the help or favour of the dragon. . . . The spirit of Buddhism is not to kill the dragon. Dragons are immortal. The Buddhist approach is to befriend the fire animal and so gain the benefit of its power which can then be used for the good of the world. The fire animal is within ourselves. [Brazier, p. 92]


    “When we consider people like  Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandella, Mother Theresa, Master Thich Nhat Hanh, and even Jesus Christ, and the Buddha himself, I think the evidence suggest that these are not people who have avoided adversity. They are not people who are quietly subsiding, however virtuously. They are people who have had to struggle and overcome great obstacles, both in their own characters and in the world around them. All such people are possessed by great energy which has its source in the sufferings they have experienced and witnessed.” [pp. 102,103]


    Noble Truth IV. The eight-fold path is the way to assist the Third Noble Truth in containing and using this fire from adversity.


    Candice Lightner


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  • Mary Connor
    Katie s birthday bash is today (after school until late); if the dinner outing goes quickly, I might be able to slip away for Zen! On Wed, Dec 17, 2014 at 4:50
    Message 98 of 98 , Dec 18, 2014
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      Katie's birthday bash is today (after school until late); if the dinner outing goes quickly, I might be able to slip away for Zen!

      On Wed, Dec 17, 2014 at 4:50 PM, John Daniewicz layover3@... [liveoakzen] <liveoakzen@yahoogroups.com> wrote:

      The reading and discussion this Thursday will be on the chapter, "Secret Oral Instructions." I can't say any more about this because they are secret and will only be revealed to those who come to the meeting.

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