The First Noble Truth

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The First Noble Truth is "All things are suffering." Life is suffering. The word in Sanskrit is duhkha. Sometimes it is translated as "unsatisfactory". Situations, this world, and our lives are not what we want them to be. There's almost always a gap between what we want and what is. In as much as we cannot accept that gap, we suffer. 

Our inability to accept life as it is and want things to be different creates the suffering in our lives. Out of that gap grows all the coping mechanisms that individually we create to try to heal the pain or the disappointment. We lose ourselves into a dream because we're hoping that will take away that fundamental pain. 

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

When The Dream Disappears

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So we all have these dreams. We have the dreams of our likes, our dislikes, this story that we weave about ourselves. We carry this story of ourselves, but the story is not true. It’s factually not correct. We embellish, we make it up as we go along and then we protect it. "I am this." "I don’t like that." "I want this." This is our dream. So the Buddha taught in the Diamond Sutra that our life is like a dream, like a phantom, like a bubble. Appearing and disappearing. What is it? If it’s not our dream, then what is it? That’s the realm of our Zen practice.

Zen isn’t concerned very much about form. It’s not really concerned very much about ritual. It’s really not a religion. It doesn’t care about having some mystical experience. It’s not about getting a particular state of mind. It’s asking the question, What am I? What is this? Don’t-Know. Because if we don’t know, then the dream disappears. The dream is everything we know, everything we believe, the whole story we have about ourselves. But if we enter into not knowing, where is the dream then? If I don’t know, then what? That’s the point of Zen practice.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Understand Yourself

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The basic teaching of the Buddha was that if you want happiness, don’t go chasing after the things that you want or like, and don’t push away the things that you don’t like. It's chasing after what you want and the resisting of what you don’t want that causes suffering. The very simple truth, the Buddha said, was if you can stay present in this moment and accept what’s here, happiness actually arises. In a way that’s counterintuitive and a little bit preposterous. Happiness is not about getting what I want and not getting what I don’t want. If I just chase after that, I will actually suffer rather than be happy. That’s the basic Buddhist teaching.

The strategy we usually have to find some semblance of peace and happiness actually makes the situation worse, not better. Don’t take the Buddha’s word for it, don’t take my word for it. Investigate your own life. What happens when you chase after what you like? It’s not about understanding this teaching, it’s about finding out in your own life what works and what doesn't work. What brings love, peace and joy? What brings hate, suffering and despair? That’s all. You find your own way. The investigation that we do for ourselves is where the real gem is. You can do it from a Buddhist perspective, you can do it psychologically, you can do it in other religions, that’s all fine. It doesn't matter which way you do it. But the point the Buddha taught was “don’t take anything for granted or on faith, find out for your self”. What distinguishes Zen and Buddhism in general is that it gives a practice to actually find out your own truth. You don’t have to accept anybody else's idea. But to do that you have to understand yourself.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Buddha’s Enlightenment

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About 2500 years ago, the Buddha attained enlightenment. Since that time, Buddhism has spread all over the world. There are now many styles of Buddhism all over the world. There is Theravada Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism, Vajrayana Buddhism, Tantric Buddhism, Zen Buddhism. Within those there is Chinese Buddhism, Japanese Buddhism, Korean Buddhism, South American Buddhism, American Buddhism. Many kinds of Buddhism. So, the Buddha saw a star and attained enlightenment. What kind of Buddhism was that?

If we have some idea of what we are or who we are, it is usually connected with some view of the world. It may be a religious view, political view, a man or woman view, a black or white view, even a Zen view. All of these views have their place, but if we are attached to any view, then we can longer longer see the truth. This is ignorance. We ignore the truth by seeing the world through our own attached view. And many times we think our view is correct. This attachment results in fear and anger which causes many human beings to respond to the world that results in much suffering. But the Buddha showed us there is a different way.

Once, the Buddha was sitting under a tree talking to his disciples when a man came and instead of bowing and asking for teaching, he spat in his face. The Buddha wiped it off, and he asked the man, “What next?” The man was a little puzzled because he never expected that kind of response. He was used to someone one getting angry and fighting back or sometimes people would submit to him. But the Buddha was not angry or offended.

But Buddha’s disciples became angry, and they reacted. His closest disciple, Ananda, said, “This is too much. We cannot tolerate it. He has to be punished for it, otherwise everybody will start doing things like this!”

Buddha said, “He has not offended me. He is new, a stranger. He must have heard from people something about me, that this man is an atheist, a dangerous man, or a corrupter. And he may have formed some idea of me. So, he has not spit on me, he has spit on his idea. If you look at this matter closely,” Buddha said, “he has spit on his own mind.”

The man was even more puzzled! And so were the Buddha’s disciples. The man returned home. He could not sleep the whole night. Again and again he was haunted by the experience. He could not explain it to himself, what had happened. He never had that experience. The Buddha had really hit his mind.

The next morning he went back. This time, the man bowed. Buddha asked him again, “What next? The man looked at Buddha and said, “Forgive me for what I did yesterday.”

Buddha said, “Forgive? But I am not the same man to whom you did it. If you look at the Ganges river, water is flowing by and other debris. If you leave and come back 24 hours later, it is not the same water and debris flowing. Every person is like this river. The man you spit upon is no longer here. I look just like him, but I am not the same, much has happened in these twenty-four hours! So I cannot forgive you because I have no grudge against you.”

“Also, you are different. I can see you are not the same man who came yesterday because that man was angry and he spit, whereas you are bowing. How can you be the same man? You are not the same man, so let us forget about it.”

So this story points to another possibility. We may not be able to respond the way the Buddha did, but it shows that we can respond to the world in a different way. If we are sincere and diligent in our practice, the way of ignorance, anger and greed, can turn into wisdom, love, and compassion. If we can return to our true self and perceive the truth of this world, without attaching to any view, then it is possible to help ourselves and all those around us.

By Jason Quinn, JDPSN

Clear Seeing, Clear Action

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The Buddha talked about clear seeing. In order to clearly see, we have to let go of what's clouding our vision. What clouds our vision is this concept of "I". The concept of "I" fixes the world in a certain way. Let go of the concept of "I" and we can perceive the moment clearly. When we can perceive the moment clearly, we can see our relationship to the moment. And if our sight is clear, and our sense of our relationship is clear, our action is a natural unfolding of the moment. But, hold on to our opinion, keep our concept, and our ideas to keep "I" safe, then what unfolds is an old story that gets played over and over and over again. 

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Got Enlightenment?

The Buddha saw a star and got enlightenment. That's the myth of the Buddha, that's the story that's been told for 2,500 years. Buddha had this experience. Zen Master Man Gong said, "I saw a star too and I lost enlightenment." Everybody thinks "Got Enlightenment" is what we want. But Man Gong says he lost enlightenment. What does that mean? If you think about it, is enlightenment something you get? Or lose? How do you get it? How do you lose it? We don't know.  

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 So already, we're starting to wonder what is this thing we call enlightenment? There is this concept. There is this idea. It's been talked about for 2,500 years. In America, we've been practicing Buddhism for 50 or 60 years. Everybody wants enlightenment. I want enlightenment, so I'll do these difficult practices because I'll get something. But there's a big problem with that. Who gets it? And what is it you want? And if I want something, maybe that gets in the way of getting it. Because the Buddha's enlightenment was about the recognition of the emptiness of this sense of self.  

Our conventional view is that I am here, I have this life, I can get something. But the Buddha in his enlightenment realized that himself and the whole universe were not separate. There is no separate self. Each thing in the universe is connected and a part of the whole. So to say "I separate from You" creates this false dichotomy. Out of this false dichotomy, all suffering grows. So if Buddha got enlightenment, he already lost it. Because there's no Buddha to begin with. There's no Buddha separate from anything else.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Equation for Happiness

Buddhist practice is about coming back to the source and finding a way to find that stability so that we're not pulled and pushed around so much by everything that we like and everything we don't like. The Buddha simply said we suffer because we don't have what we want. Or we have what we want, but we're afraid to lose it. We're constantly trying to shape the world in the image that we think it should be, but it really translates into what we want. Usually, we want some safety, some security. We don't want so much change because it's hard to handle change.   

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Change is hitting us all the time. But change is inevitable. There's nothing we can do about it. The reality of the world is even in that moment that we have everything that we want, the next moment it's changed. There's no stability in it. So if we judge everything by likes and dislikes, we're always unhappy ultimately. But the more we can accept and work with what is, that equation of happiness changes. Because our happiness is not only based on our likes and dislikes. There is something deeper. There is something more fundamental.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

What Is Correct?

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Correct is not conventionally correct because it’s not about right versus wrong. The Buddha talked about Clear Seeing, being able to perceive the moment as it is. When we talk about correct situation, we’re talking about perceiving the moment as it is, without adding to it our own particular view or our own particular idea. Just seeing clearly. We call that correct.

When we talk about correct relationship, we talk about what is actually the relationships present in the moment, not colored by my desire, not colored by my particular slant on things; but what actually is it? We all add something. So this "correct" we’re talking about takes away this taint of "I". Just see, what is it? That’s the point the Buddha said when he talked about clear seeing.
 
Clear seeing is the first of The Eightfold Path. It’s been said that if you can attain clear seeing, you’ve already got all the rest of the Eightfold Path. Because it’s that stuckness in "I" that we get lost in.

Zen Master Bon Soeng

Practice Prison

Like or dislike is what creates a prison that we live in. So if you only practice when you want to practice and then don’t practice when you don’t want to practice, that’s a fundamental problem. You are following the winds of your desire, and that’s what leads to suffering. The Buddha’s teaching is very simple. We suffer because of our desire, our anger, and our ignorance. So if our practice is based on desire, all it does is lead us to more suffering.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

The Meaning of Buddha's Birthday

Once a year, our school celebrates Buddha's birthday. We celebrate the birth of a man who was born somewhere between 2,500 - 2,600 years ago. But the meaning of this in Zen is not celebrating a man; it's celebrating this awakening. But it's not his awakening; it's our awakening. So what is our awakening?

Our awakening appears in this very moment. Buddha's enlightenment, Buddha's awakening was about waking up to the moment that we are actually in. We say very often, before this moment is a memory; after this moment is a dream. Right now, we are alive. Right now, Buddha is born. Not 2,500 years ago. Right now is the awakening of Buddha. Zen can seem esoteric, but it's not about some strange thing. It's about finding our true self and manifesting it right now in the moment we live in. 

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

The First Noble Truth

The First Noble Truth is "All things are suffering." Life is suffering. The word in Sanskrit is duhkha. Sometimes it is translated as "unsatisfactory". Situations, this world, and our lives are not what we want them to be. There's almost always a gap between what we want and what is. In as much as we cannot accept that gap, we suffer. 

Our inability to accept life as it is and want things to be different, creates the suffering in our lives. Out of that gap grows all the coping mechanisms that individually we create to try to heal the pain or the disappointment. We lose ourselves into a dream because we're hoping that will take away that fundamental pain. 

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Understand Yourself

The basic teaching of the Buddha was that if you want happiness, don’t go chasing after the things that you want or like, and don’t push away the things that you don’t like. It's chasing after what you want and the resisting of what you don’t want that causes suffering. The very simple truth, the Buddha said, was if you can stay present in this moment and accept what’s here, happiness actually arises. In a way that’s counterintuitive and a little bit preposterous. Happiness is not about getting what I want and not getting what I don’t want. If I just chase after that, I will actually suffer rather than be happy. That’s the basic Buddhist teaching.

The strategy we usually have to find some semblance of peace and happiness actually makes the situation worse, not better. Don’t take the Buddha’s word for it, don’t take my word for it. Investigate your own life. What happens when you chase after what you like? It’s not about understanding this teaching, it’s about finding out in your own life what works and what doesn't work. What brings love, peace and joy? What brings hate, suffering and despair? That’s all. You find your own way. The investigation that we do for ourselves is where the real gem is. You can do it from a Buddhist perspective, you can do it psychologically, you can do it in other religions, that’s all fine. It doesn't matter which way you do it. But the point the Buddha taught was “don’t take anything for granted or on faith, find out for your self”. What distinguishes Zen and Buddhism in general is that it gives a practice to actually find out your own truth. You don’t have to accept anybody else's idea. But to do that you have to understand yourself. 

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Clear View

The Buddha saw a star and attained enlightenment. What kind of Buddhism was that?

If we have some idea of what we are or who we are, it is usually connected with some view of the world. It may be a religious view, political view, a man or woman view, a black or white view, even a Zen view. All of these views have their place, but if we are attached to any view, then we can longer longer see the truth. This is ignorance. We ignore the truth by seeing the world through our own attached view. And many times we think our view is correct. This attachment results in fear and anger which causes many human beings to respond to the world that results in much suffering. 

If we are sincere and diligent in our practice, the way of ignorance, anger and greed, can turn into wisdom, love and compassion. If we can return to our true self and perceive the truth of this world, without attaching to any view, then it is possible to help ourselves and all those around us.

By Jason Quinn, JDPSN
Excerpt from Buddha's Enlightenment

Buddha’s Enlightenment

About 2500 years ago, the Buddha attained enlightenment. Since that time, Buddhism has spread all over the world. There are now many styles of Buddhism all over the world. There is Theravada Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism, Vajrayana Buddhism, Tantric Buddhism, Zen Buddhism. Within those there is Chinese Buddhism, Japanese Buddhism, Korean Buddhism, South American Buddhism, American Buddhism. Many kinds of Buddhism. So, the Buddha saw a star and attained enlightenment. What kind of Buddhism was that?

If we have some idea of what we are or who we are, it is usually connected with some view of the world. It may be a religious view, political view, a man or woman view, a black or white view, even a Zen view. All of these views have their place, but if we are attached to any view, then we can longer longer see the truth. This is ignorance. We ignore the truth by seeing the world through our own attached view. And many times we think our view is correct. This attachment results in fear and anger which causes many human beings to respond to the world that results in much suffering. But the Buddha showed us there is a different way.

Once, the Buddha was sitting under a tree talking to his disciples when a man came and instead of bowing and asking for teaching, he spat in his face. The Buddha wiped it off, and he asked the man, “What next?” The man was a little puzzled because he never expected that kind of response. He was used to someone one getting angry and fighting back or sometimes people would submit to him. But the Buddha was not angry or offended.

But Buddha’s disciples became angry, and they reacted. His closest disciple, Ananda, said, “This is too much. We cannot tolerate it. He has to be punished for it, otherwise everybody will start doing things like this!”

Buddha said, “He has not offended me. He is new, a stranger. He must have heard from people something about me, that this man is an atheist, a dangerous man, or a corrupter. And he may have formed some idea of me. So, he has not spit on me, he has spit on his idea. If you look at this matter closely,” Buddha said, “he has spit on his own mind.”

The man was even more puzzled! And so were the Buddha’s disciples. The man returned home. He could not sleep the whole night. Again and again he was haunted by the experience. He could not explain it to himself, what had happened. He never had that experience. The Buddha had really hit his mind.

The next morning he went back. This time, the man bowed. Buddha asked him again, “What next? The man looked at Buddha and said, “Forgive me for what I did yesterday.”
Buddha said, “Forgive? But I am not the same man to whom you did it. If you look at the Ganges river, water is flowing by and other debris. If you leave and come back 24 hours later, it is not the same water and debris flowing. Every person is like this river. The man you spit upon is no longer here. I look just like him, but I am not the same, much has happened in these twenty-four hours! So I cannot forgive you because I have no grudge against you.”

“Also, you are different. I can see you are not the same man who came yesterday because that man was angry and he spit, whereas you are bowing. How can you be the same man? You are not the same man, so let us forget about it.”

So this story points to another possibility. We may not be able to respond the way the Buddha did, but it shows that we can respond to the world in a different way. If we are sincere and diligent in our practice, the way of ignorance, anger and greed, can turn into wisdom, love and compassion. If we can return to our true self and perceive the truth of this world, without attaching to any view, then it is possible to help ourselves and all those around us.

By Jason Quinn, JDPSN

Clear Seeing, Clear Action

The Buddha talked about clear seeing. In order to clearly see, we have to let go of what's clouding our vision. What clouds our vision is this concept of "I". The concept of "I" fixes the world in a certain way. Let go of the concept of "I" and we can perceive the moment clearly.

When we can perceive the moment clearly, we can see our relationship to the moment. And if our sight is clear, and our sense of our relationship is clear, our action is a natural unfolding of the moment. But, hold on to our opinion, keep our concept, and our ideas to keep "I" safe, then what unfolds is an old story that gets played over and over and over again.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Inspiration to Practice

Keep your direction clear. There is something that moves you to practice, that points you in the direction. Then find your "try mind". Inspiration is wonderful, but if we just rely on inspiration, it fizzles out and then we’re lost. So it’s not about inspiration or not inspiration. We say in Zen something very direct:  “Just do it!”  
 
Like or dislike is what creates a prison that we live in. So if you only practice when you want to practice and then don’t practice when you don’t want to practice, that’s a fundamental problem. You are following the winds of your desire, and that’s what leads to suffering. The Buddha’s teaching is very simple. We suffer because of our desire, our anger, and our ignorance. So if our practice is based on desire, all it does is lead us to more suffering.   
 
So what I will suggest for you is look at your life realistically and see what you can do. Then set your sights and your direction on doing that. Likes and dislikes – that’s what you will meet when you sit down. Just do it! Don’t be too concerned about success or failure. Moment to moment, be fresh and alive. Just do what you set out to do. Not just for one week, not for one month, not for one year, not even for one decade. Day after day after day… moment to moment to moment…

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Got Enlightenment?

The Buddha saw a star and got enlightenment. That's the myth of the Buddha, that's the story that's been told for 2,500 years. Buddha had this experience. Zen Master Man Gong said, "I saw a star too and I lost enlightenment." Everybody thinks "Got Enlightenment" is what we want. But Man Gong says he lost enlightenment. What does that mean? If you think about it, is enlightenment something you get? Or lose? How do you get it? How do you lose it? We don't know. 

So already, we're starting to wonder what is this thing we call enlightenment? There is this concept. There is this idea. It's been talked about for 2,500 years. In America, we've been practicing Buddhism for 50 or 60 years. Everybody wants enlightenment. I want enlightenment, so I'll do these difficult practices because I'll get something. But there's a big problem with that. Who gets it? And what is it you want? And if I want something, maybe that gets in the way of getting it. Because the Buddha's enlightenment was about the recognition of the emptiness of this sense of self.

Our conventional view is that I am here, I have this life, I can get something. But the Buddha in his enlightenment realized that himself and the whole universe were not separate. There is no separate self. Each thing in the universe is connected and a part of the whole. So to say "I separate from You" creates this false dichotomy. Out of this false dichotomy, all suffering grows. So if Buddha got enlightenment, he already lost it. Because there's no Buddha to begin with. There's no Buddha separate from anything else.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng

Right View is No View

The first of the Buddha’s Eightfold Path is clear view, or right view. Right view means clarity. Right view means letting go of "my" view to be able to perceive the moment. We all know what this is like. There are times we are involved in an argument, and in the middle of it we start laughing because we realize how stupid it is. In that moment we can see clearly. 
 
To see clearly, we have to let go of our own perspective, our own opinion of right and wrong, what I should do and what you should do. If we can let go of that, then it’s possible to have what the Buddha called Right View. Sometimes it is said, Right View is the complete Eightfold Path.  If we can keep Right View which is No View, not my personal view but before my view, then it’s all taken care of.  It is easy to say, hard to do.

By Zen Master Bon Soeng