Honouring Our Parents & Teachers

momanddadIn the Digha Nikaya, we read the Muni’s advice concerning how we should care for our parents, when they become old and infirm:

“Once I was supported by them; now I will be their support. I will perform the duties they performed and maintain the family and its traditions. I will preserve my inheritance, and make myself worthy of my lineage.”

The admonishment above, from the thirty-first line of the text, is clear. Our responsibility and debt to our parents never ceases. It only increases, and with it, the profound understanding and gratitude we feel for what they have provided for us in this precious incarnation.


When a Buddha Becomes Ill

photo-mindfulnessLately, I have had time to reflect quite a bit on illness, dis-ease, and on the role mindfulness plays in our own and others’ sicknesses.

For much of the past eighteen years, I’ve not awoken in anything less than debilitating pain, living with a burdensome fatigue, intense skin sensitivity that comes and goes for hours at a time, and intermittent, annoying fevers. Since the onset of this hypothyroid challenge, which I don’t believe is anything I will have to deal with longterm, all of these things have intensified.


The Master’s Pesach

In Christendom, the story of the Last Supper is a poignant and richly meaningful point in the narrative of Rav Yeshua’s last days, before his betrayal and death.

In the Sacramental Movement it is a time when the tabernacle is emptied, and the Presence Light extinguished, the altar stripped of its linens, and the entire sanctuary takes on the stark and lifeless appearance and feeling of a tomb. For me, this was always one of the most profoundly heart-wrenching of liturgies to perform, and would mark the beginning of the three days of contemplation upon impermanence, death and awakening.


Mindfulness… Another of Institutional Buddhism’s Casualties


One of the casualties of this tendency we have to turn the Dharma into an “ism” (i.e., Buddhism), is that the arts and sciences that make up the Dharma often become homogenised into some sort of “religious doctrine”, stripping away all of the freedom and value the practice once had.

Mindfulness is the art and science of bringing our awareness to the moment. It is the practice of experiencing our True Nature, as Pure Awareness.

The Buddha Śakyamuni is said to have advocated the practice of mindfulness in one’s daily activities, as a means of grounding oneself in the calm awareness of the transitory and impermanent nature of all phenomena, one of the key facets of the path to awakening.

But you see, that’s just it… he didn’t say we need to “believe something about mindfulness”. He didn’t even find it necessary to define mindfulness. He simply said we should practice it.

And that’s where the religion of Buddhism fails in a postmodern world.


The Interior Gateway

DNAWhen I made the decision, a few weeks back, to limit my public teaching, and return my focus upon those who are dedicating their lives to the pursuit of the contemplative practice, one of the things that I was forced to do was to dismantle Western Buddhist University, principally because I was unable to gain the support and assistance of Buddhist clergy and teachers from other traditions, to help make the curriculum at WBU an inclusive, open and uniquely relevant, Western expression of the Dharma. And with no administrative assistance, no financial support, and no community involvement, that which was not valued was lost forever.

This journal is intended to serve both as a means of teaching those who are interested, as well as providing the almost daily tutelage that students in our monastic formation program require, as they prepare for ordination. It will be a simpler teaching on the surface, but will stir and awaken much deeper understanding for the student who applies herself or himself.


Radical Inclusion

diversityAs a spiritual path, one might call Zenkondo “decentralised”, in that there is no singular authority, principality or Being at the core of the practice. We embrace the divine principle as being beyond our concepts, and boundless in its diversity.

In many ways, we see the institutional religions of the past two millennia, and sadly recognise that what anthropologically emerged as an expression of the people, has nearly always become a corrupt and clericalist mechanism of control and manipulation. Religion, at its roots is always a folk-religion, but when it becomes institutionalised, the superstitions, traditions, rituals and dogma are generally “reinterpreted” to give central power, control and authority to one person or group of persons.

We’ve seen the result of this kind of corruption in the predatory behaviour of the Roman Catholic Church, and in the centuries of violence and torture of the Tibetan people, at the hands of the Tibetan Buddhist ruling class.

On this nineteenth day of the Chinese New Year, there is often a celebration of “The Hundred Gods”, particularly among certain Zen and Taoist practitioners. This celebration is intended to remind the practitioners that they are to honour the gods and traditions of other practitioners, whether they embrace or recognise such gods themselves or not.

I could not help but think about how virulently Westerners seem to attack those whose beliefs are not like their own; especially those of us for whom the god concept us unnecessary. In their pathetic attempts to define themselves, they become threatened by anything that doesn’t fit into the convenient little compartments our culture and society has created for such things.

For practitioners of Zenkondo, our spiritual path should not only reflect spiritual diversity, inclusiveness and warmth, but should encourage it.

Buddha was not a Buddhist, nor was Rav Yeshua a Christian. And given that seven of the Roman Catholic Church’s popes were Jewish, it would seem that we need to take a close look at the exclusionary, intolerant, sectarian assholes we may have become, in the name of religion!

There will be those who say that our path is heretical, and they may indeed be correct. That has never been of any interest or concern to us. What is essential is that we inspire compassion, accepting all others, and recognise that we need not disparage the practice of another, in order to justify our own. We shall always be there to lend a hand to the poor, the suffering, the sick and dying, and to those marginalised by society, religion, family or the world.

When we encounter another in need, they become the central figure in our practice — an opportunity to serve the indwelling divine principle, and to recognise our essential oneness.

Beginners’ Eyes

Ma Jaya once reminded us that the only things that ever really grow old is our clothes and our limitations. Every cell of your body is constantly being replaced by brand new cells.

forever-youngTherefore your entire body is new, every few months. 

The beliefs you have which limit you are, from the moment you recognise them, old and chaotic data. They come from not being present in the moment. Fear can only arise when we are replaying old stories, false perceptions and memories of the past, or when we are projecting nonsensical, baseless stories about the non-existent “future”. The past and the future are imaginary constructs, created by the ego-mind to give a “context” to the chaotic data, drama and false ideas, it tries to impose over reality.


Gong He Fat Choi (Happy New Year, Bitchez!)


This coming Sunday, 10 February 2013, marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year, and ushers in the auspicious Year of the Serpent.

According to tradition and mythos, handed down since ancient times, legend has it that the Buddha Śakyamuni asked all the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. Twelve different animals came, and the Buddha declared that the people born in each animal’s assigned year would have some of that creature’s personality.

In Chinese astrology, the serpent (or snake, as it is commonly depicted) is both wise and unforgiving, so the Year of the Serpent can be “unsettling”. (The September 11 False Flag Operation, as well as the failure of Enron and Worldcomm occurred during a “snake year”.) And while these years have historically never been “tranquil”, that doesn’t mean that your life need be unsettled or lack tranquility.

Quite the contrary, these years of intense disturbance can be viewed in the larger picture of the energetic balancing (to last year’s Ying Energy), making this year a good time to spend energy in reflection, planning and contemplative practice. It is also a very good year to begin the process of giving your body the nutrients and energetic balancing it needs to restore health and homeostasis.

By so doing, you are able to harness the qualities of the snake for yourself, becoming more patient and mindful, cultivating greater creativity and cunning, and allowing yourself to be watchful, while being relaxed and at peace. The snake’s awareness is always on… its eyes, ever open. This metaphorically symbolises our potential for an ever-wakeful wisdom.

Therefore, when we engage in a more contemplative practice of the Way, during a snake year, we open ourselves to the embodiment of esoteric knowledge and spiritual discovery.

We take our cue from the life of the snake, who when left undisturbed, does not go out of its way to interfere in the world. And while it may become quite wrathful, when threatened or provoked, it quickly returns to the moment, and becomes peaceful and calm once more.

My recommendation for each of you is to spend the next five days reviewing your plans and actions of the past year, in anticipation of a period of uncertainty. Settle any differences which might exist, and anything that might be causing you to experience irritation, resentment or ill-will.

Over the next five or six days, you might feel a little out of sorts, as the serpent energy, or Kundalini, begins to uncoil and rise. This is caused energetically by your senses becoming sharper, more refined and acute. This awakening of energy might be unfamiliar, so be gentle with yourself.

The year of the snake will also bring with it a time when we will shake up our old perceptions, opening the way to a clearer, more definite Way. And just as the snake sheds its skin, we are invited to release old thinking that has blocked growth and progress. This is a year with the energy to inspire newfound ambition to achieve great things as Wayseers.

Exercise caution this year, before beginning any new enterprise. This is a great year, however, for entering into a more progressive area of commerce or industry.

Pay careful attention to legal documents, contracts and lawsuits. Do not speculate or gamble, recalling that the snake always prefers the safety and advantage of higher ground, and hidden places.

The snake is transcendental in its capacity for spiritual healing of the individual, as well as the world. It seeks peace through recalibration of the karmic balance, understanding the mistrust born of chaos, in which the world finds itself.

Having shared these cautions, there is also very good reason for hope for in this Year of the Snake, because it is the Year of the Water Element as well, or as we say, the Year of the Water-Serpent.

Left behind is the rigidity and inflexible mentality of the metal element, and as the water element rules the period of 2012-2013, we continue to awaken to greater levels of wisdom, empathy, healing and peacemaking. Water finds its way around obstacles, nurtures growth, and represents a revitalisation that will certainly follow, if you use this time to cultivate a greater contemplative practice.

For members of the Contemplative Order of Compassion, and practitioners of Zenkondo, this New Year is considered to be a particularly auspicious time, because it includes the jayanti, or birthday, of the community’s root teacher and presiding abbot. And so it is customary to recognise that there are specific boons given by the graces of the guru, as students show their appreciation for the Dharma and their trust and affection for their teacher, because the Teacher never stops making offerings, doing pujas, and preparing the Way for the disciple.

This New Year will commence the official beginning of the new semester for our monastic students, and a year of intense focus on our practice for the whole order. Like the serpent, we will be shedding those things which no longer serve us, and preparing to move into greater awareness, calm and clarity. As such, my teaching will challenge each of you to shed the karmic skins of your past, and rediscover what it means to be a contemplative on the Path of Zenkondo (the Way of Boundless Compassion).

These next five days will be a time of particularly focused and intense practices for me, on your behalf as well. Never imagine that any one of you doesn’t matter to me, because while you might not think so, there isn’t one student who calls me guru, who doesn’t occupy a place in my heart, in my mind and in my practice.

Be gentle with yourselves. I love you.


khenpo gurudas śunyatananda