but let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late…

I have quite a bit I want to talk about, but it’s late, and I am really tired. Perhaps tomorrow. By that time, I am sure I will have even more to say, or at least a better idea how I want to put it.

Something I am working on (taken from an article by Barbara O’Brien):

The words “right action” evoke social and environmental activism, and such work can be examples of right action. But “Right Action” in the Buddhist sense also means acting in harmony with the other aspects of the path. These aspects are:

  1. Right View
  2. Right Intention
  3. Right Speech
  4. Right Action
  5. Right Livelihood
  6. Right Effort
  7. Right Mindfulness
  8. Right Concentration

This means that when we act “rightly,” we act without selfish attachment to our work. We act mindfully, without causing discord with our speech. Our “right” actions spring from compassion and from understanding of the dharma. Each aspects of the path supports all the other aspects.

Right Action, Right Speech and Right Livelihood make up the ethical conduct part of the path. Most basically, Right Action refers to keeping the precepts. The many schools of Buddhism have various lists of precepts, but the precepts common to most schools are these:

  1. Not killing
  2. Not stealing
  3. Not misusing sex
  4. Not lying
  5. Not abusing intoxicants

The precepts are not a list of commandments. Instead, they describe how an enlightened being naturally lives and responds to life’s challenges. As we work with the precepts, we learn to live harmoniously and compassionately.

The Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh said, “The basis of Right Action is to do everything in mindfulness.” He teaches Five Mindfulness Trainings that correlate to the five precepts listed above.

The first training involves respecting life. In awareness of the suffering caused by destruction of life, we work to protect all living things and this planet that sustains life.

The second training involves generosity. We give freely of our time and resources where they are needed, without hoarding things we don’t need. We do not exploit other people or resources for our own gain. We act to promote social justice and well-being for everyone.

The third training involves sexuality and avoiding sexual misconduct. In awareness of the pain caused by sexual misconduct, we honor commitments and also act when we can to protect others from sexual exploitation.

The fourth training involves loving speech and deep listening. This means avoiding language that causes enmity and discord. Through deep listening to others, we tear down the barriers that separate us.

The fifth training involves what we consume. This includes nourishing ourselves and others with healthful food and avoiding intoxicants. It also involves what books we read or what television programs we watch. Entertainments that are addictive or cause agitation might best be avoided.

Right Action and Compassion

The importance of compassion in Buddhism cannot be overstated. The Sanskrit word that is translated as “compassion” is karuna, which means “active sympathy” or the willingness to bear the pain of others. Closely related to karuna is metta, “loving kindness.”

It’s important to remember also that genuine compassion is rooted in prajna, or “wisdom.” Very basically, prajna is the realization that the separate self is an illusion. This takes us back to not attaching our egos to what we do, expecting to be thanked or rewarded.

In The Essence of the Heart Sutra, His Holiness the Dalai Lama wrote,

“According to Buddhism, compassion is an aspiration, a state of mind, wanting others to be free from suffering. It’s not passive — it’s not empathy alone — but rather an empathetic altruism that actively strives to free others from suffering. Genuine compassion must have both wisdom and lovingkindness. That is to say, one must understand the nature of the suffering from which we wish to free others (this is wisdom), and one must experience deep intimacy and empathy with other sentient beings (this is lovingkindness).

 

I seem to have a terribly difficult time with the right speech part. I’m working especially hard on that. It’s hard to try to do this AND be a sarcastic chucklehead at the same time…

 

Sunday morning (evening) coming down…

I can’t seem to focus on just one task at a time lately. I’ve got 2 or 3 books that I am in the middle of. I started organizing the office, and stopped after I did most of my desk. I started going through and organizing the basement, and stopped about an hour in.

I’ve been on a diet since January 1. We’re severely restricting carbs, and trying to eat more vegetables and fruit and much less junk. It’s working – I’ve lost a little over 4 lbs. so far. But today, I find myself hitting the wall. The lack of bread and potatoes is making me a grumpy bastard. Ok, more of a grumpy bastard than usual.

I had intended to start zazen (literally “seated meditation”) today, but my head’s not in it right now. Or, I’m just being lazy and making excuses (which is much more likely).  I’ve been reading and studying zen practice for over a year now, and everything I have read makes a lot of sense to me.  I had picked up one or two books back in 2011, but it was early in 2012 when I accidentally wandered into the “Eastern Thought” section of Books A Million that I came across two books that really jumped out at me.

The first was “Not Always So: Practicing The True Spirit Of Zen ” by Shunryu Suzuki. His other book, “Zen Mind, Beginners Mind” is widely considered one of the world’s most important books on Buddhism. I had a heck of a time finding that one in our local big box book stores, so I finally bought it on Amazon. But I digress… Not Always So was easy to read, and quite enlightening. It’s basically a series of transcripts of talks Suzki-roshi (roshi is an honorific title used for a highly venerated senior teacher in Zen Buddhism) gave at the San Francisco Zen Center, which he founded in 1962. It gave me lots to think about, and quite a few ideas about ways I could make changes to improve myself – something which I am sure many people would agree is necessary! I can’t recommend these books enough.

The other book was “Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies, & the Truth about Reality” by Brad Warner. He’s a punk rock bass player and zen piest who’s originally from Wadsworth  – right down the road from where I live. His writing, and the way he described zen really made me want to begin practicing zazen. I’ve since picked up his other 3 books, and I have enjoyed and learned from them all. He explains things in a very clear manner, and (perhaps this is because I am a musician as well) makes it sound very appealing.

So I just have to stop fucking around and do it.

Rehearsals for my show start back up Monday night. We have 24 rehearsals before we finally have an audience, but I am confident in this cast. Time to hit the ground running!

to steal from Jon Stewart, “and now, your moment of zen…”

In the beginner’s mind there is no thought, “I have attained something.” All self-centered thoughts limit our vast mind. When we have no thought of achievement, no thought of self, we are true beginners. Then we can really learn something. The beginner’s mind is the mind of compassion. When our mind is compassionate, it is boundless. Dogen-zenji, the founder of our school, always emphasized how important it is to resume our boundless original mind. Then we are always true to ourselves, in sympathy with all beings, and can actually practice.

Shunryu Suzuki-roshi (1905 – 1971)