on practice

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    On the Contagious Power of Presence Paid Member

    Being present is based on the cultivation of mindfulness in whatever we do. Through mindfulness, we develop greater composure and a heightened sensitivity to nonverbal communication. Then, to the extent that we ourselves are present, we can radiate that same quality outward to the people around us. It is hard to be generous, disciplined, or patient if we are not fully present. If we are present and attentive, and our mind is flexible, we are more receptive to the environment around us. When we are working with the dying, this ability to pick up on the environment is invaluable. The more present we are, the more we can tune in to what is happening. At the same time, that quality of presence is contagious. The dying person picks up on it. The people around him pick up on it. Presence is a powerful force. It settles the environment so that people can begin to relax. More »
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    Bowing Paid Member

    Dogen Zenji once said: "As long as there is true bowing, the Buddha Way will not deteriorate." In bowing, we totally pay respect to the all-pervading virtue of wisdom, which is the Buddha. In making the bow, we should move neither hastily nor sluggishly but simply maintain a reverent mind and humble attitude. When we bow too fast, the bow is then too casual a thing; perhaps we are even hurrying to get it over and done with. This is frequently the result of a lack of reverence. On the other hand, if our bow is too slow, then it becomes a rather pompous display; we may have gotten too attached to the feeling of bowing, or our own (real or imagined) gracefulness of movement. This is to have lost the humble attitude which a true bow requires. More »
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    Bowing Paid Member

    The benefits of prostrating are these. The Sutra for Classifying Karma mentions ten benefits—one will have a handsome body, a golden complexion, and so on. Other sutras say that one acquires the merit to become a world emperor for each atom in the ground covered by one's body. The semi-prostration was discussed in the Tantras; it was how Pandit Naropa used to do his prostrations. Purchog Ngagwang Jampa is supposed to have said, "If you believe in the benefits of making prostrations, you will feel, 'If only my body, hands, and feet were longer.'" [Before you prostrate, you join your hands together.] The Tirthikas traditionally press their palms together, but we do not follow this practice: we place our thumbs inside our cupped hands so that our hands are not empty. The shape of our hands then resembles the wish-granting gem. More »
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    Bowing Paid Member

    Heng Sure: "How can I get rid of my arrogance?" someone asked the Master at Gold Mountain. "Bow. Bow all the time to anything and everybody you see. Can you do that?" Bow not for something—to get something for yourself. Bow to empty yourself, to repent and clean out your mind. With no thought of self, all benefit. With a thought of self, all suffer. Bow to the Buddha-nature in all beings, sentient and insentient. With no self the Buddha appears. Can you do that? Heng Ch'au? When you bow slowly through these big hills and vast landscape you see that all of it is made up of tiny little particles—dust motes, atoms. Everything either can be broken down to empty space or from empty space built up into an ocean, a person, or a mountain. More »
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    Bowing Paid Member

    When in doubt, bow. So I was told when I began Zen practice, and it's advice I still follow. I've never forgotten the anxiety I felt then, new to the zendo and terribly afraid of making a mistake—tripping, belching, standing when I should sit or sitting when I should stand. I bowed a lot. After a few years, I had a kind of dream. In the dream, I am standing in the bedroom of my small house. A man—unknown to me, almost faceless—is standing in the doorway, pointing a gun at me. I know I am about to die, and without thinking, I bring my hands together and bow. End of dream. Again, I am standing in the bedroom, a man points a gun at me, I place my palms together, make gassho, and bow. End of dream. Over and over, through an entire night, I had this dream, and again the next night, over and over—a death memory returned, ending in a bow. More »
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    Bowing Paid Member

    The first time I saw formal bowing I was shocked. I just had completely mixed feelings. Something in me loved it—I was taken by the sincerity and the intensity of it. On the other hand, I'd never seen that happen before, outside of a movie or a photograph, so I was shocked; I was enthralled. It was still quite a long time before I felt comfortable kneeling down to my teacher, or even to his image. But after a while something happened—it was just a release of some little teeny part of ego. I've kind of analyzed it, psychoanalyzed the whole thing. I think it was a milestone. I had to overcome a lot of cultural conditioning even though I had studied some anthropology and psychology and there was a part of me that was already open-minded in the recognition of different cultures and different ideas. It was a little bit like trying oysters for the first time, and I still don't like oysters. More »