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.
The Life of Subtraction
by Chuan Ren
Just as one teaches students how to subtract in mathematics (one of the most difficult concepts to teach to children for some reason), first with physical manipulates (fingers, blocks, candies, etc.) and then gradually moving to the abstract practice of subtraction through symbolic numerals mentally and on paper, so I am attempting to subtract my attachments and false ego.
I need to begin with one step at a time. First, by diminishing the most obvious in the physical state: television. There could be nothing more deceptive, false, or ignorant than watching television. By recently removing the act of foolishly watching television, I was able to naturally extricate the urge to be a certain way and buy more of what is not at all necessary.
Now is the more challenging part: How do I remove all of my other, less obvious and more abstract attachments that have been embedded within me during my thirty years of living? I have been constantly surrounded, fed, and bombarded with delusions. I have willingly accepted so many of them. Learning the teachings of Buddha at Buddha Gate Monastery, meditation, and my husband’s unceasing and compassionate assistance with reminding me to develop more awareness, have all assisted me in becoming more conscious of where my attachments lie and what is real. I want and “need” that new and fashionable cell phone. I desire the good-tasting food from that fancy restaurant. I really crave that feel-good compliment from my boss in order to feed my false ego. If only I could really, truly understand that these desires are just bringing me suffering.
Subtracting these material goods and attachments from this life, in fact, add to my life. My true Buddha nature can be revealed through subtraction.
The Life of Subtraction
by Chuan Xiu
Due to Buddha’s infinite compassion,I encountered Buddha Gate during a confusing period. Every time I ask myself “Who is walking?”, “Who is meditating?” or “Who is eating?”, I notice that new “I”s surge, but I can neverdiscoverwho they are. I used to believe I knew myself, but now I don’t know who I am. Who is this who demands and expects so much of everyone? Who is this who is never satisfied? Who is this who seekssocial identification andfulfillment of senseless habits while swinging betweenself-limitation and self-exaltation?
If I don’t know who I am,I have no legitimate reason to struggle so hard in order to satisfymy endless threads of desires.This has helped me to make small, daily life decisions that once sounded daunting:vegetarianism, less comparison, emotional sublimation and the attempt to empty the mind of pre-concepts. Thepractice is lighterwhen I remember that I am not myself and that the Buddha’s Mind is infinite.
Weeding & Planting
by Darlene Cioffi-Pangilla (Chuan Ling)
I am a volunteer at the Gardens at Heather Farm in Walnut Creek. The time I spend gives me the opportunity to reflect on what is taught in Buddha Gate’s Meditation and Buddhism classes.
As we begin the new year, the weeds accumulated over the winter need to be pulled up, making space for new flowers to be planted and the dormant ones to emerge and grow.The weeding and planting is ongoing: each day, each week, all year. Should this not be like our daily life, not only while at Buddha Gate? We weed out what needs to be eliminated, and we plant new attitudes, thoughts, speech, and actions that WILL enhance our personal environment and that of the greater world.
While pruning shrubs, trees or whatever, at the Gardens, we first remove the coarse stuff so that the finer growth can be seen. We then step back and look at the finer growth from different angles to see what needs to be weeded or pruned so that the plants intrinsic beauty has a chance to be revealed.
Is this not like our meditation practice? We sit to allow the coarse stuff to surface. The more we sit, the more falls away, the fine with the coarse, deeper and deeper, subtle and even more subtle until our True Nature, the subtlest of all things, Is. I must continuously weed and plant, weed and plant. Buddha Gate Monastery and the teachings available there help me to better recognize what I need to weed and what I need to plant. For this I am most grateful.
因為佛陀無盡的慈悲，在我困惑時，得遇佛門寺。每一次我問自己，“誰在走路?” “誰在打坐?” 或 “誰在吃飯?” 我發覺一個新的“我”湧現，但我仍不明白那是什麼。過去，我認為我知道自己，但現在，我不知道自己是誰。這個向外要求、期待這麼多的，是誰? 這個永不滿足的，是誰? 這個在自我設限和自我得意之間，搖擺追尋著社會地位及無意義的成就感，是誰?
佛門寺研經班傳修 (Vinicius Marinho)