Tarot: The Star

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Alternative Names: Hope, The Stars

Number: XVII

Astrological Sign or Planet: Aquarius, the water carrier

Element: Air

General Meaning: Hope

Chakra: Higher Heart, for universal love

Key Meanings: Hope, guidance, inspiration, and creativity

Key Message: Be inspired, dreams come true

 

Easy Latkes

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This recipe is for a classic, unadorned latkes.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large Russet potatoes (about 1 pound), scrubbed and cut lengthwise into quarters
  • 1 large onion (8 ounces), peeled and cut into quarters
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt (or 1 teaspoon fine sea salt), plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Safflower or other oil, for frying

Preparation:

  1. Using a food processor with a coarse grating disc, grate the potatoes and onion. Transfer the mixture to a clean dishtowel and squeeze and wring out as much of the liquid as possible.
  2. Working quickly, transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the eggs, flour, salt, baking powder and pepper, and mix until the flour is absorbed.
  3. In a medium heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat, pour in about 1/4 inch of the oil. Once the oil is hot (a drop of batter placed in the pan should sizzle), use a heaping tablespoon to drop the batter into the hot pan, cooking in batches. Use a spatula to flatten and shape the drops into discs. When the edges of the latkes are brown and crispy, about 5 minutes, flip. Cook until the second side is deeply browned, about another 5 minutes. Transfer the latkes to a paper towel-lined plate to drain and sprinkle with salt while still warm. Repeat with the remaining batter.

Zen Journal

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3/25/19

BEGINNER’S MIND.  In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

“People say that practicing Zen is difficult, but there is a misunderstanding as to why. It is not difficult because it is hard to sit in the cross-legged position, or to attain enlightenment. It is difficult because it is hard to keep our mind pure and our practice pure in its fundamental sense. The Zen school developed in many ways after it was established in China, but at the same time, it became more and more impure. But I do not want to talk about Chinese Zen or the history of Zen. I am interested in helping you keep your practice from becoming impure.”

~ Shunryu Suzuki, from “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.” 1970.

3/26/19

Most people are afraid of suffering. But suffering is a kind of mud to help the lotus flower of happiness grow.
There can be no lotus flower without the mud.”

When we suffer, we tend to think that suffering is all there is at that moment, and happiness belongs to some other time or place. People often ask, “Why do I have to suffer?” Thinking we should be able to have a life without any suffering is as deluded as thinking we should be able to have a left side without a right side. The same is true of thinking we have a life in which no happiness whatsoever is to be found. If the left says, “Right, you have to go away. I don’t want you. I only want the left”—that’s nonsense, because then the left would have to stop existing as well. If there’s no right, then there’s no left. Where there is no suffering, there can be no happiness either, and vice versa.”

~ Thích Nhất Hạnh, from “No Mud, No Lotus.” 2014.

3/27/19

A teacher visited during this time, and I remember her saying to me, “When you have made good friends with yourself, your situation will be more friendly too.”

”I had learned this lesson before, and I knew that it was the only way to go. I used to have a sign pinned up on my wall that read: “Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us.” Somehow, even before I heard the Buddhist teachings, I knew that this was the spirit of true awakening. It was all about letting go of everything.”

~ Pema Chödrön, from “When Things Fall Apart.” 1997.

3/30/19

WE ARE IN a unique period of human history. For the first time, the major threats to our existence are not the natural disasters that were the biggest fears for our predecessors a thousand years ago, but human-created dangers.”

“This places us at a critical time in evolution, a time that could decide the fate of both the human race and the planet we all share. The most compelling paradox we are encountering is that, on the one hand, we possess a degree of knowledge and technological capability hardly dreamed of only decades ago. We understand complex data about the furthest reaches of space and the most subtle workings of minute fragments of atoms. On the other hand, millions of us starve. Our enviroment is polluted. The earth’s natural resources are being plundered at an alarming rate, and the spectre of global ecological catastrophe raises the possibility of the extinction of our species and all life. In spite of our understanding so much about the universe and its functioning, we’ve barely begun to scratch the surface of understanding who we are, what our life is, and what our relationship is with the “ten thousand things” that comprise phenomenal existence.”

~ John Daido Loori, Roshi. “Teachings of the Earth: Zen and the Environment.” 1999.

3/31/19

Often, when we say, “I love you” we focus mostly on the idea of the “I” who is doing the loving and less on the quality of the love that’s being offered.”

“This is because we are caught by the idea of self. We think we have a self. But there is no such thing as an individual separate self. A flower is made only of non-flower elements, such as chlorophyll, sunlight, and water. If we were to remove all the non-flower elements from the flower, there would be no flower left. A flower cannot be by herself alone. A flower can only inter-be with all of us… Humans are like this too. We can’t exist by ourselves alone. We can only inter-be. I am made only of non-me elements, such as the Earth, the sun, parents, and ancestors. In a relationship, if you can see the nature of interbeing between you and the other person, you can see that his suffering is your own suffering, and your happiness is his own happiness. With this way of seeing, you speak and act differently. This in itself can relieve so much suffering.”

~ Thích Nhất Hạnh

4/13/19

YOUR BREATHING ROOM is a sacred place. You don’t need any furniture, maybe just a cushion or two, and perhaps an altar or a table with fresh flowers. If you want, you can have a bell to help you with the practice of stopping and mindful breathing.

Think about the setup of this room or corner carefully. How much we enjoy being in a certain place very much depends on the energy that is generated within it. A room can be well decorated but feel cold and unfriendly; another can lack color and furniture but can feel simple, spacious, and comfortable. If you live with other people, you should design and decorate this space together, perhaps with flowers, pebbles, or photographs. Don’t put a lot in this area. The most important elements are a place to sit and a feeling of peace.”

~ Thích Nhất Hạnh, from “A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation”

4/14/19

Prayer of the Bodhisattva

“As long as space endures,
As long as sentient beings remain,
Until then, may I too remain
and dispel the miseries of the world.”

~ Shantideva, “Bodhicaryavatara” (Way of the Bodhisattva), 8th Century

4/15/19

We can observe emptiness and interbeing everywhere in our daily life. If we look at a child, it’s easy to see the child’s mother and father, grandmother and grandfather, in her. The way she looks, the way she acts, the things she says. Even her skills and talents are the same as her parents’. If at times we cannot understand why the child is acting a certain way, it is helpful to remember that she is not a separate self-entity. She is a continuation. Her parents and ancestors are inside her. When she walks and talks, they walk and talk as well. Looking into the child, we can be in touch with her parents and ancestors, but equally, looking into the parent, we can see the child. We do not exist independently. We inter-are. Everything relies on everything else in the cosmos in order to manifest—whether a star, a cloud, a flower, a tree, or you and me.”

~ Thích Nhất Hạnh, from “The Art of Living.” 2017

4/16/19

Creativity is our birthright. It is an integral part of being human, as basic as walking, talking, and thinking.

Throughout our evolution as a species, it has sparked innovations in science, beauty in the arts, and revelation in religion. Every human life contains its seeds and is constantly manifesting it, whether we’re building a sand castle, preparing Sunday dinner, painting a canvas, walking through the woods, or programming a computer.

The creative process, like a spiritual journey, is intuitive, nonlinear, and experiential. It points us toward our essential nature, which is a reflection of the boundless creativity of the universe.”

~ John Daido Loori, from “The Zen of Creativity.” 2004

 

Zen Humor: Vow Of Silence

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Remember that story about the fellow who wanted to become a Zen Buddhist monk. So he flew to Japan and he had an interview with the head Roshi. And the Roshi gave him instructions and accepted him and he said, “By the way, there is one thing I forgot to tell you. We have a vow of silence here. You can only speak three words every ten years.” So he said, “Okay” and he went to his quarters.

Ten years passed. And he had an interview with the Roshi. And the Roshi said, “Do you have anything to say?” And he said, “The food sucks!” And he went back to his quarters.

Ten more years passed. He had an interview with the Roshi. The Roshi said, “Do you have anything to say?” And he said, “The bed’s hard!” And he went back to his quarters.

Ten more years passed. He had an interview with the Roshi and the Roshi said, “Have you got anything to say?” He said, “Yes I quit!” And the Roshi said, “I can’t blame you, you’ve been bitching ever since you got here.”

#Zen #Buddhism #ZenHumor

Book Review: Buddha & the Borderline

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This book is atypical of the type I will normally review or discuss, but it is a phenomenal book that tangentially discusses Buddhism.  The book is really about a woman who suffers from borderline personality disorder and her journey through the depths of the disease and into recovery.  Buddhism plays a fundamental role in her recovery, but if you are looking for a deep discussion of Buddhist thought look elsewhere.  What you will find here is an inspiring story that will make you laugh out loud for real, cringe and possibly cry in spots.  There are parts of the true story that are just plain ugly and scary.  This is one of my favorite quick reads which gives you a sense of the importance of Buddhism in the life of a pained individual as she struggle to redefine herself.

The Buddha and the Borderline is a cross between Girl, Interrupted and Bridget Jones’s Diary.While reading it, I found myself admiring Kiera’s talent for vividly describing borderline hopelessness and pain while keeping me laughing with her tales of life as a ‘lonely and increasingly horny receptionist.’ While this book has something for everyone, Kiera’s detailed account of how she recovered from this deadly disorder will be enormously inspiring to people with borderline personality disorder and their family members.” (Randi Kreger)

“Kiera’s book is destind to become a classic in the growing literature on borderline personality disorder. I expected to get a somber account of a transformation from suffering to enlightenment,but the book I read was not only entirely entertaining and revealing, but also had me up way past my bedtime in stitches. The Buddha and the Borderline is seriously funny, authentic, and sublime in its wisdom. The book embodies the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism and integrates the world of core unrelenting suffering with the world of freedom from suffering. Transcendent stuff.” (Blaise Aguirre,MD, medical director of the Adolescent Dialectical Behavior Therapy Residential Program at McLean Hospital in Belmont, MA)

Book Review: The Eight Gates of Zen

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This volume has had a profound influence upon my life as I keep returning to it over and over again.  After my illness (liver transplant) I had lost a lot of my faith in Zen and was only practicing once in a while.  A received this gift from a friend who had lived at Zen Mountain Monastery for a time.  I placed in my queue of books to read and there it sat for a few month, but I kept having this nagging feeling that reading this volume would have an immediate impact on my life.

I finally read it through in a couple of days and I have never regretted that decision, as a matter of fact it was one of the best decisions I have made.  The book presents an, “accessible introduction to the philosophy and practice of Zen Buddhism includes a program of study that encompasses practically every aspect of life.”  Soon after I finished reading it I found myself seeking a teacher.  Living in Jacksonville, Florida that task proved difficult as I could not find someone that met my requirements.  I ended up turning to the internet and listening to the dharma talks of Thich Nhat Hanh, John Daido Loori, and others.  This in no way is  a substitute for having a teacher, but it was the best solution available for me.

This small volume has taught me much and when I find my faith wandering I pick it up and read either excerpts or the whole book again.  I recently was going through one of these spells and decided to read the book.  Since completing it I have found myself a sangha, started this website and am rededicated to walking the path.  I have never felt stronger about my beliefs and I owe a debt of gratitude to John Daido Loori and his book.

The program of study developed by John Daido Loori at Zen Mountain Monastery, from their website:

Zazen

Zazen is the cornerstone of Zen training. Za means “sitting.” Zen—which derives from the Sanskritdhyana—means meditation. In its beginning stages, zazen is a practice of concentration, with a focus on following or counting the breath. More than just meditation, however, zazen is a powerful tool of self-inquiry, boundless in its ability to reveal the true basis of reality. Through zazen, we realize the unity of the self with the ten thousand things, which has the potential to transform our lives and those of others.

Study with a Teacher

Zen is an ancestral lineage that traces itself back to Shakyamuni Buddha. Because it relies on the mind-to-mind transmission of its teachings, personal study with an authentic teacher is pivotal to training. Although fundamentally, teachers have nothing to give, they are indispensable in helping students navigate the difficulties we encounter along the way, directly pointing to our original perfection. In dokusan, private interview, students deal with the questions and insights that emerge out of zazen.

Buddhist Study

The founder of Zen, Bodhidharma, said that Zen does not rely on words and letters. However, most western Buddhist practitioners are not familiar with the historical, philosophical and psychological underpinnings of the tradition, so Buddhist Study is critical to establishing a sound religious practice. Though words are not the same as the reality they describe, when used skillfully, they can act as a medium for direct realization.

Liturgy

Liturgy makes visible the invisible, bringing into awareness the shared experience of a group. In theistic religions, liturgy reaffirms our relationship with God. Zen, by contrast, is nontheistic, so its emphasis is on realizing our Buddha nature, or the nature of the self. All of Zen’s rituals point to the intimacy between the self and the ten thousand things. For an introduction to Zen liturgy, see Celebrating Everyday Life by Daido Roshi.

Right Action

Right Action is the study and practice of the Buddhist Precepts, the moral and ethical teachings of the Buddha. Though the Precepts are based on the experience of no-self, they are designed to function in the world of differences. Thus they define how a Buddha lives in the world. See Daido Roshi’s book on the moral and ethical teachings of Zen Buddhism, The Heart of Being.

Art Practice

From its inception, training at Zen Mountain Monastery has taken up both the traditional Zen arts as well as contemporary arts to deeply study the self. Art practice encompasses the entire creative process: artist and tools, the relationships between artist and subject, artist and object, and object and audience. Together, these interactions show us that creativity is an inherent human process. See Daido Roshi’s book The Zen of Creativity.

Body Practice

Our physical body is our vehicle of self-realization, an experience that encompasses our whole being. The search for self-knowledge is often reduced to a purely mental pursuit. Body practice helps us to unify body, breath and mind through activities ranging from refined practices like Tai Chi to mundane activities like washing our face or eating breakfast.

Work Practice

Work Practice is a reminder that our spiritual practice must move off the cushion and translate into the sacred activity of living and working in the world. A daily caretaking period and formal work practice give us the opportunity to explore labor that is nourishing to ourselves and others. Starting with simple, repetitive tasks, and gradually increasing their complexity, we learn to see how our minds respond to the task at hand.

Dambulla Cave Temple

Dambulla cave temple, also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla is a World Heritage Site in Sri Lanka. Dambulla is the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. Major attractions are spread over five caves, which contain statues and paintings. These paintings and statues are related to Gautama Buddha and his life. There are a total of 153 Buddha statues, three statues of Sri Lankan kings and four statues of gods and goddesses. The latter include Vishnu and the Ganesha. The murals cover an area of 2,100 square metres (23,000 sq ft). Depictions on the walls of the caves include the temptation by the demon Mara, and Buddha’s first sermon.

The temple is composed of five caves of varying size and magnificence. The caves, built at the base of a 150m high rock during the Anuradhapura (1st century BC to 993 AD) and Polonnaruwa times (1073 to 1250), are by far the most impressive of the many cave temples found in Sri Lanka. Access is along the gentle slope of the Dambulla Rock, offering a panoramic view of the surrounding flat lands, which includes the rock fortress Sigiriya, 19 km away. Hindu deities are also represented here, as are the kings Valagamba and Nissankamalla, and Ananda – the Buddha’s most devoted disciple.

#GoldenTempleOfDambulla #Buddhism #SriLanka