Mittwoch, 21. Mai 2014

The Power of Emptiness is the Power of Freedom, Heart Sûtra (Makahannya haramitsu, Part 2)

Dôgen starts with an important chapter,

“When Bodhidsattva Avalokiteshvara practices the profound prajnyâ paramitâ, the whole body reflects that the five aggregates are totally empty. The five aggregates (skandas) are matter, feeling, thinking, enaction and consciousness.”

Empty means that these five components of a human being and the world (skandas) are in the balanced state, they are not deluded, not lost in emotional dreams and not dependant on greed, anger or stupidity. They are free and empty of blockages.

In this state of Zazen we experience existentially both truth and reality: “the whole universe is as it is.” This means that we have not added anything unrealistic or any one-sided idea, that we have not taken away or reduced anything or any idea concerning the universe or ourselves.

This seems to be easy, but it must be practiced, and the effective way to do this is to practice Zazen. In the balanced state of Zazen we transcend conventional thinking and perception. And we are open to the here and now, without tension and stress and with no nervous emotions. In this state there is no fear, no anger and no exaggerated emotions. We are rid of the usual thoughts and emotions. And we are especially empty and free of social ideologies and political hate: that is the basis of creativity and an open mind.

Nishijima Roshi stresses that this balanced state is the balance of our autonomic nervous system; this means that the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems, which are in interaction in the autonomic nervous system, are in a state of tranquility. This is a state of calmness and stability and with this it is possible to experience the universe exactly as it is and there is nothing which disturbs us. He says,

Therefore if we, human beings, want to have always the true decision, it is necessary for human beings to keep the balance of the autonomic nervous system at every moment.”

Because great wisdom is not one-sided, Master Dôgen says that “matter is just immaterial and the immaterial is just matter.” But he says in addition to that that everything is as it is

, “matter is matter and the immaterial is the immaterial. There are hundreds of things and million phenomena.”

So with this explanation I think it is not difficult to understand the words “form - emptiness and emptiness – form”. This means that we do not discriminate between matter, feeling and mind, and that we experience a unity, without separation of subject and object.

Master Dôgen explains in this chapter that prajnyâ, the six ways of acting of the Bodhidsattva, is essential for all Buddhist teachings and the Four Noble Truths; there are six instances of prajnyâ: freely giving, pure (observance of) precepts, patience, diligence, meditation and prajnyâ itself.

Master Dôgen emphasizes that the great wisdom of prajnyâ pâramitâ is realized in the present moment and it is also important for the truth of the three times: past, present and future. In Zen Buddhism it is essential to be clear about the material aspects of this universe, which is described by the elements of earth, water, fire, wind and space. The great wisdom should be integrated into our actions, such as walking, standing, sitting and lying down.

I think it might be helpful to explain the Sanskrit word shûnyatâ. In ancient times Indian mathematics scholars invented the zero of the algebraic system of positive and negative figures. They called this zero shûnyatâ. The zero is the middle of the whole system of figures and the center for the functioning of all positive and negative figures.

It has no value of its own; it is in the middle and guarantees the balance. This shûnyatâ was very significant for Indian scholars and Masters at the time of Mahâyâna. Master Nâgârjuna developed his philosophy of the Middle Way in the golden age of Mahâyâna. It is thus very clear that shûnyatâ doesn’t represent a nihilist philosophy and nothingness in the sense that no thing and no body really exist. The opposite is the case. It is a powerful truth concerning the whole system of mathematics; it is the middle and the balance.

Samstag, 10. Mai 2014

The Heart Sûtra (Makahannya haramitsu, Part 1)

The great intuitive wisdom which transcends thinking

Master Dôgen describes in this chapter of the Shôbôgenzô the prajnya paramita of the great wisdom, which is also known as Heart Sutra. It is the second chapter in this great work. This most important Sûtra is associated with the words “form and emptiness”. Master Dôgen quotes these words at the beginning of his comprehensive teaching on Buddhism.

Prajnyâ is a wisdom that transcends conventional thinking, even when it is logical, clear and not unreasonable. But in conventional thinking there are processes of sequential thought which are not capable of providing comprehensive and clear solutions in complex situations. This fact is proved exactly by research in the field of the neurosciences.

For this reason conventional thinking maybe a good tool for scientific research and technical jobs, but it has little effect in the realm of the existential and the spiritual, and not even in the domain of psychology. It is said that the Heart Sûtra is the contents of about forty large Sûtras from Mahâyâna Buddhism. Even today Buddhist groups recite the Heart Sûtra both in East Asia and in the West.

Paramitâ means “to have arrived at the opposite shore”. That is, to have reached the truth. So paramitâ is the central teaching of Gautama Buddha, transcending conventional thinking and perception and free of suffering. Both of the latter are closely associated with emotions which are more or less strong and which change our information process. This means that it is different from reality.

Prajnyâ is very often combined with the word shûnyatâ, which was used by Master Nâgârjuna and extensively interpreted in his main work “Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way”. But the word emptiness is very often misunderstood and some people equate it with nihilism, which rejects logic and realism. But this understanding is completely wrong.

Prajnyâ is a kind of wisdom which constitutes a great ability of our mind, and it transcends the linear thinking in which we distinguish between subject and object. The Heart Sûtra cannot be understood easily because of its wording, and I myself have recited it very often but have in fact had considerable difficulty in understanding its true meaning. At the end of the Sûtra it says that it has the power to transcend all sufferings. But how can its words “form is emptiness and emptiness is form” transcend our suffering?

Before I studied Master Dôgen and Nagarjuna under Nishijima Roshi it was more or less impossible for me to understand the full  meaning of these words. Nishijima/Cross say,

“What is pajnyâ? Prajnyâ or real wisdom is a kind of intuitive ability that  occurs in our body and mind, when our body and mind are in the state of balance and harmony.”

And they continue,
“The right decision (in our life) comes from the right state of body and mind. And the right state of body and mind comes when our body and mind are balanced and harmonized.”

And this is the great wisdom of Prajnya.

For Nishijima Roshi the meaning of emptiness is the same as the balanced state of body and mind, especially in Zen meditation. This is a state of the whole human being and is not only a question of thinking and considerations. With this definition the meaning of emptiness becomes clearer und free of mysticism.

Freitag, 2. Mai 2014

New Movie of Zen

Dear Zen friends,

a young movie maker, Beatrice, was very motivated to make a movie about Zen in the modern society. I met her on the ferry to La Gomera, Canarian Island, were I intend to build a small dojo in the mountain, not far from the coast. 

As you know wintertime is not very convenient in middle and north Europe, so we were thinking it might be a good idea to have a center for Zazen in that wonderful nature and climate of La Gomera: only Spring and Summer.

In the short movie I am speaking about:

- Stress, fear, insecurity, looser situation in the modern culture
- Nature like Dogen´s famous chapters in the Shobogenzo
- Shakuhachi flute is for flow and deep relaxing, no fear about changing
- Archery for action in the moment: past, present and future as one unit in the very moment, exactly the situation of body-and-mind.

I am sorry it is not in English.
We are thinking of crowd funding.

With best wishes