Teaching at the Zen Centre
Today I was teaching at Zen Centrum Den Bosch. The day was a mixture of meditation sessions and Dharma talks. In some of the meditation sessions we did zazen and in others we did chanting. We chanted invocation of Quan Shi Yin and I explained something of the significance of the Bodhisattva of Compassion as “she who hears the cries that come down through the generations”. Then we chanted nembutsu, “Namo Amida Bu”. I explained how numbest is one of the most popular and widely practised rites in Buddhism in the Mahayana world because Amitabh is the Buddha of all-acceptance.
Holding the Universe in One's Hands
In the Dharma talks I spoke about the meaning of zazen, starting from the mudra of holding the universe in one’s hands. We hold the universe with great tenderness and it may at first seem a great responsibility. How can we do it? But then we realise that it is also true that the universe holds us. We are sitting in the lap of the universe, and therefore, of all the Buddhas. They care for us with infinite tenderness. Therefore we feel immense gratitude and feeling so, our task of caring for the universe becomes simple and natural. in fact, it is not really we ourselves who are doing it at all. We are simply a channel for the love of the Buddhas to pass through.
Later I talked about Zen Therapy and Buddhist Psychology, pointing out that many contemporary integrations seek to unify Buddhist techniques with Western agendas, such as using mindfulness to cure stress, as though it were a quasi-medical treatment. I suggested that a better approach is to ground ourselves vin Buddhist agendas and theories, and if possible even in the Buddhist paradigm, and use techniques drawn from wherever. Then we would have a genuinely Buddhist psychotherapy.
We also looked at the complex subject of self and non-self and the difficulty of unscrambling what is the same and what is different between Western and Buddhist psychology. In Western psychology the self is thought to be a good thing and to be strengthened, so all good things are attributed to self. These same good things - like faith, confidence, a generous attitude and so on - are, in Buddhism seen as signs of non-self. Buddhism is not interested in self-confidence, but it is interested in confidence, not in self-esteem but certainly in esteem and so on.
The Nature of Buddha
There had been a request for me to talk about the Trikaya Nature of Buddha. I gave a talk on this explaining the difference between the practical, spiritual and absolute levels. At the practical level, things are, as Zen Master Dogen said, “Three before, three after,” in other words you get out what you put in, no more, no less. At the spiritual level, however, an act of love may have infinite consequences. It is certainly possible to get out far more then you put in. This something for nothing Dogen calls the appearance of flowers in the sky. When we think in a spiritual way, flowers are always appearing in the sky and then they fall to earth with all kinds go good effects. At the absolute level of Dharmakaya there is not even this much calculation. In the absolute all is as it is and all is loved just as it is. Buddhas have all three bodies in the sense that they move readily from one level to another according to the needs of the situation.
Keeper of the Inn
We also had a useful discussion of the idea that emotions and ideas are guests passing through. We are like the inn-keeper. Some guests are pleasant and some are demons. Our job is to treat them all with hospitality. In due course they all move one. Some are longer term and may dwell in our basement for a while, perhaps even causing trouble, but in the course of many lives, everything passes.
In the Cathedral
It was a happy day with a nice group of people seeking to deepen their practice and understanding. We also had a bit of time to see a small part of the town and to visit the magnificent cathedral. It is a very large cathedral with much magnificent stained glass and several ailes lined with statues of saints. There is a central tower with an “eye of God” in the middle of the finely painted ceiling. Apparently it is possible to go to the top and look down through the eye of God, but we did not have time or inclination today. Instead we went and drank some rather good coffee before heading for the Zendo.
Teaching at the Zen Centre
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It was a wonderful weekend Rob! We both enjoyed it very much :-)
Rob Goedhart said: