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 Part 2
What are the important holidays and traditions of this religion?
Well, that would depend if you practice Tibetan, Korean, Thai, Indian, Chinese or Japanese Buddhism. Many of the Buddhist holidays are tied with the local customs of the area. For example, in Japan, many Shinto festivals are also utilized as Buddhist holidays but are endemic to that region and don’t exist in, say, Thailand or India. I still think myself as a “Cultural Christian.” I celebrate Easter, Christmas as well as any other pagan influences that I feel like throwing in. Everyday is a celebration of my practice but generally the Birth of the Buddha and the Day of the Buddha’s Enlightenment are the big holidays.
What are your daily worship practices?
Daily, I wake early and do 45 minutes of Kinhin (walking meditation) or Yoga. I open up my Altar by bowing or prostrating three times, providing an offering of incense and candles, bowing or prostrating three more times and then zazen for 15 minutes. I recite the Heart Sutra, the Identity of Relative and Absolute, the Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo, the Shosai Myokichijo Dharani and the Five Remembrances. This is a standard Zen liturgy. I also attempt mindfulness and compassion throughout the day at work and at home (Usually my mindfulness takes the form of samu (working meditation)while doing the dishes. My wife does not mind. I used to attempt 15 minutes of zazen before bed but a bustling toddler pretty much nipped that in the bud.
Weekly, I attempt to sit at the zendo with my sangha at least once. The feeling of group practice is much different that practicing solo and it is helpful for me to put my practice into a perspective.
I don’t consider this worship but that is most probably due to my being raised Christian and thus now rather tentative about that term and its implications. Many Buddhists worship but I prefer to frame my practice as the physical manifestation of the ideals perpetuated by the teachings of the Buddha, the lives of the Bodhisattvas and the efforts of the sangha. Avalokitesvara is the Bodhisattva of Compassion and is prevalent in many different forms in most Buddhist cultures. Prayed to and revered, the supernatural aspect is neither affirmed nor rejected by my practice but the manifestation of Avalokitesvara is of prime importance. When I act with compassion I manifest Avalokitesvara and supernatural or not that is vital.
I don’t cling to the idea of transcendence and I don’t reject it. But I allow my mind to open to its own natural awareness. I can’t think of anything more wondrous than that.