Reflections: Awakening

Awakening in Meditation
by Anne Khoury

My face smiles as I remember my Chan 7 Retreat. My mind hears the sound of chanting, drums and the awakening bell, smells the incense, and sees the fog settled in the mountains at day break. My heart remains touched by the kindness and generosity of all who shared their wisdom, practice and guidance and made me feel at home in a new experience and land.

Sitting in mediation was a profound awakening, for my mind has seldom been still in the outside world. When sitting in meditation and my mind became calm, much delusion, ignorance and attachment floated by . . . some of which was deep rooted and long repressed. As I sat with a still mind, I felt a peace and lightness I have never before experienced. Attachments and judgment seemed to disentangle from my mind as clarity, calm, and a feeling of connectedness settled in. That feeling of connectedness to the universe and all beings increased as I meditated during Zen breakfast and lunch . . . reflecting on how what I put into my mouth, to became part of my body, came from a multitude of sources and perspectives.

It is now my challenge to hold onto this experience in practice as I “pick up” in the outside world. Interestingly, upon my return to the USA, there was no jet lag and my mind seems to have transformed. It is much calmer, focused, and aware of the essence of what I am here to contribute. There is hope. Perhaps our world leaders and all sentient being need a Chan 7 Retreat. The world would be a much different place.

Thank you for your generosity in sharing the dharma, your practice and for the joy of glimpsing my awakening mind.

How the Teaching of “The Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana” Changed My Life
by Peggy Bryant

In the spring session, 2004, our new Abbess of Buddha Gate Monastery, Ven. Jian Pin, introduced the sutra study class to the sutra on “The Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana”. She explained that this sutra contained the core understandings applicable to all Buddhist sutras. The sutra was difficult, concise, and required a lot of explanation and discussion to be understood.

In Chan Buddhism, the mind is the Buddha, and to realize our mind is to become enlightened. I was very interested in the Sutra because it explicates the aspect of the nonenlightened, deluded mind. In the section “The Aspect of Nonenlightenment”, there is a logical explanation of how we become deluded, what it means in a step by step fashion to develop aspects that characterize our defiled state.

In this section, I learned that because of being unenlightened, our deluded mind produces the activity of ignorance, the perceiving subject, and the world of objects. Then, conditioned by the world of objects, the deluded mind produces the discriminating intellect, continuity of deluded thoughts, attachment to what it likes, analysis of words devoid of reality, evil karma, and suffering. This is what my mind is doing all the time!

Abbess Jian Pin encouraged me to study and memorize this section of the sutra and for this I am most thankful. Studying this sutra has helped me to better understand what it means to be deluded and how delusions arise. When I improve my understanding of how my deluded mind works, I feel that I have more power to make right choices, to avoid taking everything in my mind as real. I understand more clearly that I have the option to choose what I believe in and that I need not believe in and act on everything that arises in my mind. Let those moods, cravings, needs go! In short, studying this sutra is helping me to understand more clearly how to know myself, how to practice more effectively to purify my mind to eventually realize its original nature.

by Peggy Bryant

The other day I was walking around the block near the hospital where I work, when an older man got out of his car right near me. We exchanged “hellos” and I asked how he was. He was a handsome, African American, tall and athletic looking. He noted my hospital ID badge and started telling me about his recent heart bypass surgery, his kidneys that were beginning to fail (his doctor wanted to discuss dialysis), and his prostate cancer. He said, “You know, I’m just not sure I want to deal with all this.” He told me that he had worked for many years as a longshoreman at the Oakland docks. He was always in good shape, he said, and he had felt good about himself physically. Now, he said, pointing to his outstretched arm, “I don’t have much muscle left.” He was proud that he had just celebrated his 73rd birthday. It was tough, he said. All the while, he had a smile on his face and a gleam in his eye, so I knew that he’d continue to fight. He was grateful for what he had.

This made me reflect on my Buddhist practice and how we struggle with our conventional views of ourselves versus what we know to be true about existence; that is, everything is impermanent. How can we learn to accept impermanence? Buddhism teaches that meditation is key in developing self knowledge and, therefore, clear seeing. During sitting meditation, we face ourselves alone. It’s very difficult to allow things just to be as they are when we sit. There’s no fooling ourselves that things come and go – thoughts, pains, noises, feelings change. Impermanence. That means accepting our bodies that hurt, our minds that run around, our always having to work to remain focused and alert. To just sit, facing ourselves as we are.

I wish I could tell that man I met on the street how meditation is helping me to face myself and accept things as they are, always changing. That is half the battle.