This week’s posts will consist of the questions I received from a student writing a paper on Buddhist practice. My answers were supplimented slightly before posting with additional info, links and quotes. So anyway, I hope my answers can be of some benefit and maybe promote some conversation (maybe even an ‘A’). See Part 1
How has religion shaped your life?*
At its heart, I consider Buddhism to be a source of spiritual preventive medicine for the mind and for all sentient beings unfortunate enough to be around me on a daily basis. The renewal of my practice coincided with my wife’s first pregnancy and the need for me to find a higher paying (and thus higher stress occupation) to support us. I restarted my Buddhist practice as a way to prepare for the changes that I was seeing ahead. It has helped. It doesn’t remove the stress and I don’t walk around “blissed out” on Buddhism but I am able to place those stressors in the proper context and handle them in a compassionate, wise and understanding manner.
What are the challenges, if any, to practicing Buddhism?*
Buddhist practice, by Kapleau-roshi’s standard, is made up of three aspects that are in constant flux: Great Faith, Great Doubt and Great Striving. So the very essence of practice is activity and mental training and not the silence and stillness that is usually exemplified by popularized Zen. That is a challenge but one that most of us wish to engage wholeheartedly and every day.
Logistically, it is difficult for me to find time and a quiet place to meditate. In order to continue in my practice I have to view it as constantly in flux – always changing and always open for change. Just as my experience of my wonderful daughter changes as she grows from infant to toddler, so does my practice. I can’t expect that what I did a few years ago is going to be the same practice I have now or 3 years from now. I allow it to grow organically with us. Since the reason I began was to benefit my family and others, I keep in mind that clinging to a certain type of practice For example I have recently introduced more yoga and walking meditation since it requires less time than zazen (sitting meditation).
I will probably never be as focused as other practitioners and attend long sesshins and retreats, I will probably never engage in a teacher/student relationship as deep as others, I will probably never take my precepts. But I will continue to strive and practice and live my days.
I recently came up with an analogy to explain my meditation – If you look at a duck on the water you will see a still bird bobbing on the waves while underneath and out of sight the duck’s legs are paddling wildly and constantly. That is me. Perhaps no movement is apparent on the surface but underneath there is constant activity.
Everything we need is already before us. All of our practice is already actualized. It is just a manner of us realizing and internalizing that simple and profound fact. There are no steps, there is no attainment and there is nothing to attain – There is just a process that will continue whether we accept it or not. We don’t need koans, lojong mind-training or pretty beads and a black cushion just as we don’t need happiness or fulfillment. We just need … and that is the problem. That is our challenge.