Guidance in the time of Corona 27

Dear All

We already have mid May. Are you taking good care of your essence? In Sogenji we are in Osesshin, 28 people are here in training. Sitting daily 12 hours of zazen, coming for sanzen 4 times a day and teisho – all this is supporting the deepening of their practice.

In Okayama prefecture all regulations have been lifted, yet people of training do not leave the monastery, now already for 3 months they stay inside. The present situation is like a constant sesshin. The Corona time is an extreme time, yet for people of training their essence can be looked at clearly and it is a chance for further deepening. The essence grows, and there are many who can experience in their sitting that they can drink down their body, the zendo and the whole universe. This experience is not an easy one to have.
This time is a very supportive time for people of training. The ancients left their wisdom for us, we study this and use it to expel all anxiety during these unsettled times. And thus we deepen by using the guidance of the ancients.

How can we greet someone who is sick? How can we deal with us becoming sick? These points we have been looking at. Sickness shows in our body, past, present and future have effect on our being, yet if we do not get stopped by the body, we do not get confused by the body. This is the theory which does not help us, rather we need to actualize this for ourselves.

Vimalakirti teaches us how important it is to deepen. We can actually experience this, using koans, using sussokan, actually deepen in our sitting. For this we need to let go of all this information which is around, or else we cannot deepen. When we do zazen we become zazen, when we do samu we become samu. There can be no extraneous thought entered. Thus we become full and taught inside, with each breath, with each mind moment we become one with the koan. This essence then becomes real and can be experienced.
Even if we do not have this type of professional experience, Hakuin teaches us the Naikan (introspection) method:

This elixir field, located in the sea of vital energy, the lower back and legs, soles of the feet –
it is all my true and original face.
How can that original face have nose holes?
This elixir field, located in the sea of vital energy, the lower back and legs, soles of the feet –
It is all the home and native place of my original being.
What news or tidings could come from that native place?
This elixir field, located in the sea of vital energy, the lower back and legs, soles of the feet –
It is all the pure land of my own mind.
How could the splendours of that pure land exist apart from my mind?
This elixir field, located in the sea of vital energy –
It is all the Amida Buddha of my own self.
How could Amida Buddha preach the Dharma apart from that self?

Using these words, we let our awareness settle within. Not opening from one moment to the next, not making a gap and letting the essence deepen, just like blowing up a balloon. This is how full we feel. And with this all thoughts and imaginations which fill our mind during our daily life, have become torn away, all disappeared. And we only face the reality right here under our very feet. Tasting the reality of this moment only. Once we settle to this degree, we are like a blown up balloon. Our awareness becomes sharp and clear. Then simply the tip of a needle touching the balloon will make it burst. No extraneous thoughts can enter because the energy is so full and taught.

This experience is possible in a monastery but also in society if we continue our efforts. Usually we get tired in our mind by following along all sense perceptions, but when turning inside, we again can actually experience this original energy of us.

A sesshin is for this actual experience. In Sogenji we sit the golden hour for 1,5 hours. Not just 25 minutes because this does not really help us deepen in this way when our awareness can still wander around. When our zazen settles, huge energy is experienced, and then the worries and anxiety dissipates. This again gives us confidence not matter what challenge we may face. True confidence only arises from an actual experience.

Please wherever you are keep up your work and deepen your state of mind. This is my great wish.

Guidance in the time of Corona 26

Dear All,

Some say that there may be a vaccine next year and that only in spring of 2022 the pandemic will have settled. If the restrictions are taken off too soon, there may be new cases appearing. Some people who are infected may have no symptoms while they could infect others. We do need to reflect upon our wisdom, if we were to get sick, how we can deal with this situation in the best possible way.

What this means for us in our training is that we do need to have patience. It is not about yesterday and today only, but we need to continue our efforts. We need to see how we actually can live within challenging situations. We receive the wisdom of Vimalakirti.

Vimalakirti says, “because society is sick, that is why I get sick. We need to have a huge mind and not only see our own life.” Vimalakirti taught us how we can greet and support someone who is sick. Now how about if we ourselves get sick? This is what Vimalakirti is teaching us now.

Monjusri visits Vimalakirti, yet both encounter each other with a bright mind, that it is hard to know, who is the sick person. When we get sick, we easily get depressed, we cannot go outside and depend on others support. We feel this as a heavy burden. Yet Vimalakirti does not even look as if he is sick. His state of mind is bright and clear, and the person visiting him does not feel any pressure put on him.

Monjusri asks him: “You are sick yet you do not look sick. How are you managing?” Vimalakirti answers: “If sickness catches us and we fall into sickness, that becomes a heavy weight for us. Of course, I am actually sick. I have symptoms of sickness. Yet what truly makes us sick in mind are those attachments, memories, grudges which we carry around from the past. And because of these arising, that is why we feel the pressure. It is because of those past unclarities, that we feel heaviness.”

These are not extraneous thoughts, yet they do colour our experience of the moment. We cannot get stopped by them. Our physical body which we have received from our parents may get sick, and since we identify with this body, that is why we create our own heaviness. We of course may get sick, yet it is not our body alone that feels the sickness, it is mainly our mind that feels the sickness.

Ikkyu Zenji said in his death poem:

The body that I have borrowed, today I do return it.

Because we only see the physical body, we are not aware of the huge mind, which uses this body. Of course, we do not want to get sick, yet going through the experience of sickness, we need to bring forth wisdom which helps us rise above this physical experience. We cannot stay stuck in our body only, this would be a big mistake.

It is important that we do not feel stuck in our sick body, or else we create an even greater sickness than our physical one. This is what we need to awaken to. We may feel bad, have pain, have difficulty breathing, have no appetite or sense of smell, yet we cannot let our mind get drowned within this experience.

Over 100 years ago in Japan the poet Masaoka Shiki lived, he practiced zazen from a young age. He said that Zen was about being prepared to die anytime, yet later in his life he said that he realized when he was sick, when he did not know how long he had to live, he said that Zen is not about being prepared to die anytime but Zen is about receiving this life energy anew each moment, receiving the energy to live.

Masaoka clearly looked at his own sickness, and when the end neared he called his students and gave this poem:

The Hejima flower is blooming
The mucus is filling up my throat
Is this the Buddha?

This is a flower that blosoms in June in yellow colours, this flower must have been all around, in this season he was ready to face his last moment of being sick with tuberculosis. The pain must have been huge, while the students gathered around only wished to give their teacher some relief. In this uncertain situation, he gave the first two lines of the poem, then again was struggling to get some air, the students had tears running down their cheeks. They wanted to take the pain onto themselves. They quietly sat by his bed side, waiting, when Masaoka Shiki gave the last line of the poem: Is this the Buddha?

Someone who has died is said to become a buddha yet also someone who is awakened is called a buddha. Masaoka gave this poem, his breathing must have been difficult, when this mucus fills his throat, that is the last moment. He speaks about himself as if he is watching himself from high above. It is about himself, yet his state of mind is quiet and filled with wisdom.

That is what Vimalakirti is saying, that we cannot stay stuck in our body, that we cannot drown in our suffering, if we down then we are at the end. That is not how it should be. From a high level we can reflect upon our state of mind, we can review our state of mind. It is the mind which uses this body, the mind is not stuck in this body. It does need to depart from this body at one point, yet we can awaken to our true nature and share this experience with many.

I may be suffering but there are others who suffer even more. If there is a chance, I would like to use my life to help others, to support others. That is what we need to see as important in our life, Vimalakirti is teaching us.

Guidance in the time of Corona 25

Dear All,

Are you working hard? We do sesshin daily, we sit at least 1-8 hours per day. During the daytime we do samu, and continue zazen morning and night. Of course during Osesshin we sit for 12 hours a day. There is teisho and zazen during the Osesshin once a month, and 2-3 kosesshin every month. About 3 weeks each month we are in sesshin. Especially now everybody is able to enter deeply into their training.

Right now that the temperatures are rising and it is almost summer, the infection rate will slow down. Most likely each country will face a more relaxed situation. Maybe this autumn and winter we will again have some virus around. This situation is not about this moment but we need to look ahead on how we can deal best with the challenges we are facing.
In our surroundings we need to maintain our health, that is our responsibility. Our country has put out these regulations, yet we are not alive under these, but can perceieve from a wider view, this is what we need to learn as humans.

The Buddha said:
We are what we think, having become what we thought. Like the wheel that follows the cart pulling ox, sorrow follows an evil thought.
We are what we think, having become what we thought. Like the shadow that never leaves one, happiness follows a pure thought.

We have this body in this reality. This body receives the condition of the surroundings. At times it might be hard to know how to continue. Still our life continues, new life is born, exists and finally disappears again. This is the appearance of our life. Yet our life does not exist only for one generation, but since the birth of this planet, it has been influenced by the condition of the universe. Life came forth, humans evolved and were able to keep polishing their wisdom while adapting to each new situation. This is where we find ourselves now, that a new world has to open up.

If we look at this we are not just alive while we have this physical body, but the wisdom of the ancients is alive within us. This is where our focus has to be, that is where we ourselves now need to polish. This is what the Buddha is teaching us with these words above.

We cannot drown in this situation, but piercing from the past through the present to the future, with a bright, clear and open mind. This is where we need to place our faith.
In the olden days we had god, Buddha, yet rather than looking at it in this way, all humans can open their eyes and see this very reality. Receiving support of the people who are close to us, we see that only a huge wise mind can bring forth a revolution.

This is what the Buddha said, we do zazen with this meaning, not hoping that zazen will liberate us, but when our mind settles, we become this mind which pierces through all three times, which can go beyond time. It is not about our own happiness, but including everyone we can see how we should live, this is our lesson of these days.

We need to take this time now and the next few years to continue to open our mind, to truly awaken to our original mind. Take the wisdom of the ancients and directly use it for your own life, what do these teaching actually mean to you in your life? That is where we need to reflect.

Corona virus is not the only reason people get sick. There are many other reasons yet we need to support the sick people and be there for them in the best possible way. Or else we are irresponsible human beings.

This is where Vimalakirti teaches us on how we can support a sick person. Monjusri asks: “You are sick, we come to greet you, yet your wisdom is what we need to hear, how can we actually meet someone who is sick?” Vimalakirti replies: “We never know what will happen next in this world, we never know what will happen to our body next. This world is in constant change, we are in constant change while we cannot live forever, while we need to die eventually. This cannot be ignored. We are healthy and need to be thankful for it. We need to also prepare ourselves that we will eventually die. When we greet someone who is sick, we need to be wide in mind. Yet at that time, we cannot speak about meaningless things. “

This wide state of mind is what we can share with the sick person, giving them a sense of the hugeness of this life energy, which will continue even tomorrow. This huge state of mind is what we can give the other a sense of. Our life is just as the Buddha taught the four noble truths. This life is suffering, awaken to this fact. Do not stay with joy only but life in a way that you stay grounded, that is where we need to make efforts. Awaken to the fact that life is suffering. That is how our life is. And then the smallest joy is something we can be extremely thankful for. We do not need to try and escape the suffering, but rather while we are suffering, how should we see ourselves? How can we maintain faith in ourselves, how can we have hope – that is what brings us to wisdom.

We encounter many different situation, yet to have an idea about what we are, that does not help us any further. Rather see that we exist because of many around us who are supporting us, from there thankfulness arises. Then our state of mind widens. From there we naturally want to reach out to others and support others.

Please hold out this hand to other so that they may also liberate themselves. Of course all types of thoughts arise. These are only about the phenomenal world and are in constant change. That is where we can use our wisdom, our quiet eye, no need to hurry here, but take this wisdom as being most precious. With this wisdom you can truly meet and greet another person. Not giving the other meaningless worry or hope, rather give them deep wisdom about life, this is how we can support one another. Vimalakirti is teaching us that we cannot lose sight of this state of mind when we meet another person.

Guidance in the time of Corona 22

Dear All,

In some place the number of the infected and those who have died from the virus is increasing. In all countries, some lockdown has been lifted, yet it seems that it is not the time yet for all restrictions to be lifted. Thus it is up to us to stay centered and polish our wisdom.

In Japan, even the traditional celebration on the day of children could not take place. It was not a day where the children could truly be celebrated and enjoy their day. We receive the wisdom of the ancients which keeps us grounded when anxiety is about to take over. Just like the story in the Vimalakirti sutra, Vimalakirti was being greeted when he was sick, yet nowadays because of the worry of infection, even close family members are not allowed to greet the sick and old. This is very difficult to accept. So how can we support those in need, those who are close to us?

Vimalakirti was a great supporter of the Buddha, and Vimalakirti got sick by taking on the sickness of society. Naturally all those people who had received support by Vimalakirti, wanted to visit and greet him now that he was sick. When the visitors come, it is again Vimalakirti who is giving them wisdom in return. That was the reason he got sick, so that he would have the chance to teach his visitors.

Many people came to visit him, from politicians to military leaders, common folks and monks – many different types of people came who had received support by Vimalakirti. When they entered the room, they were asked by Vimalakirti: “What is your purpose of life, your direction in life? I am thankful for your visit, yet the I of today maybe the you of tomorrow. You will not always be healthy either. We can not imagine the worry and anxiety of when we are sick. Why do we get anxious? Because we have not clearly set our direction in life. What is the purpose of us being alive? We all have been born to awaken to our true nature. “

It can be said that animals are alive to eat and create off spring. Yet for us as humans, we cannot leave it at that. Our value lies in awakening to the wisdom which pierces through past, present and future. For us to experience this, we need to be certain about our direction in life. What are we? Do we know this?

Vimalakirti continues: “I am bed ridden now. How about if you were in this situation, would you then be able to awaken to the truth? Please while you are healthy, even one day sooner, awaken to your true being. Know clearly the value of your own existence. Know clearly the purpose of humans being alive on this planet. How can we all life in harmony and happiness together? Please reflect upon this and bring forth your wisdom.” In this way, Vimalakirti gave each visitor the sense of necessity to search within.

Now in the times of corona, we cannot simply fall into anxiety, but we need to reflect deeply, who am I? Have we experienced our true life´s purpose? The virus is teaching us that we never know what will happen next. There is the need to awaken even one day sooner to the truth. There is no meaning in just living and then finally dying. But to know ones true value, this is what we are being taught now.

The Buddha asked his desciples and the bodhisattvas to go and greet Vimalakirti, yet everyone refused knowing that Vimalakirti´s wisdom has shown them their unrealized mind before. Finally the Buddha asked Monjusri to go and greet Vimalakirti. Monjusri replied: “However great my wisdom may be, it does not reach that of Vimalakirti. I am not at all in a position to greet him, only because you are requesting me to go, I shall go in your place.”

That is the point. When we move according to our own thoughts, there are things we manage to accomplish yet others not. If we move not from our own strength but from the strength of the Buddha, we are able to take on a lot and respond from a deep place of wisdom. If we only think about what we need to do, what our position and responsibility is, that is important of course, but then we at certain times get attached and confused because we move from a place of self.

Rather receiving strength from a greater power and not acting from the belief, that this is our own life, we can work for others in society, we can face true challenges and move through them. We can see the pain and sickness of others and support them. This is just a slight change in how we look upon ourselves, this is our wisdom.

The same is true for myself. I do not think of myself to be travelling to different countries to teach, but rather that I want to do the work which Mumon Roshi was not able to do, and thus I am doing my teaching work for him. I am not moving from a personal position. My own energy and wisdom is of no great matter, yet when I face the many questions of my students, if I were acting from a personal self, there would be no liberating answer possible. If I were travelling from a personal wish, I might even get tired by the travels. But it is not a personal self that is moving. It is the wisdom of Mumon Roshi working through me.

No matter how tiring a work may be, no matter how great the pressure is that is being put on me, I never once thought that this pressure is being put on myself. That is why I am able to do that which I normally cannot do. I have been travelling to teach my students for 30 years now, not taking a break in between, I continue. If it were my small self, I could not do this. But because I am acting representing Mumon Roshi, thus this is possible. It becomes very light and easy.

This wisdom is what we all can use, not moving from a small self and thus letting go of that pressure on oneself. You may think that it is a very irresponsible way of living. That is not how it is. I do take responsibility. But these situations have been given to me, they came to me, thus I naturally respond to them. I do not experience the feeling of giving up. This wisdom given by Vimalakirti is important.

When we meet another person, when we come from a position of a self, many misunderstandings and confusion may arise. For example when we go and visit a sick person. If this person will get well, then this visit is still an easy one. Yet if this person will not heal and will die, when there is nothing that can help anymore, what can we say to such a person? This is difficult to know.

But if we go not as a small personal self into a situation like this, when we know we are a greater power, then there is no pressure, and a wide view comes about where we can encounter the other person with a huge, wide mind.

Vimalakirti say: “Go and greet someone without the awareness of going and greeting. Do not perceive myself as being sick and in pain, but see myself as a complete person, as a person free from sickness. This is how Monjusri was able to come and greet me.”

If we only see from our own position when we meet another, we easily put pressure onto that person. This is not true greeting of a sick person. The other may be in bed, thus bring a wide and huge mind with you. This does not mean to ignore that the other is sick and to only stay with one´s own happiness, but rather not adding your own heaviness and worry, becoming one with the other person. These efforts bring forth great wisdom. Our huge state of mind is needed here, this is the wisdom of the ancients. Each and every one of us has this chance to not put pressure onto others, to share this huge human mind. Please look carefully at this.

Guidance in the time of Corona 21

Dear All,

Are you doing fine?

Japan is already for one month in a lockdown and it has been extended for one month. The main question for us is, how do we live while we are being restricted? Also the medical staff is working hard, doing over time since staff is rare to cover the next shift. At the same time in many countries protective clothing is scarce. In some hospitals it seems that the situation is similar as if at war.

The numbers of people committing suicide is rising, Such intense times, yet we can do so little about it. We can be thankful for the medical staff, we can support in which ever way possible to stop the infection chains and clusters to come about. We need to be aware of those people who are caring for the sick.

There is the Vimalakirti sutra, which is about the lay person Vimalakirti. He was wealthy while at the same time caring deeply for people, Vimalakirti himself worked in society for others. Yet finally he became sick himself. The Buddha was sorry for Vimalakirti being sick, and wanted to send his disciples to give greetings. Yet the disciples did not feel that they could manage to go and greet Vimalakirti. Finally Monjusri agreed to go.

When Monjusri entered the room, Vimalakirti was lying in bed. Monjusri asked: Why is it that you got sick? – Vimalakirti replied: I am not sick, but because many in society are sick, I cannot stay healthy and am taking on this sickness of society. Just as a parent feels the sickness of the child as their own, wanting for the child to be healthy even one day soon, they will make any effort possible

Vimalakirti said as well, if society is sick obviously I am sick as well. He said: This happened because I am so concerned about society. Thus there was no way out but myself getting sick as well. If the sickness of society heals, then I will also heal. These are famous words of the Vimalakirti sutra.

We cannot simply say now, that we are doing fine, that we are not sick. But rather see the suffering of the others as your own. We can actually experience ourselves right now what Vimalakirti was talking about. We do need to keep this in mind.

The Buddha said himself: In this world all places are my home. In this world, all people are my children.

When our mind becomes purified, we let go of an ego centered view where we see the problem of the other as their problems. When we are pure in mind, we act like a mirror, the other is a reflection in the mirror of our mind, of ourselves. This is being experienced as a fact. Those suffering children are myself, are my children. This is how the Buddha experienced the world from his purified mind.

We need to purify our mind. We need to see this is reality, we are all one. We need this correct way of seeing the world. Aligning ourselves in this way, we then know exactly what we need to do. It is important now more than ever that we find a way of living together with others, with society.

This is where we need to make efforts, to not let our mind get moved around by greed hate and delusion, to not drown in these emotions. Here and there people are unsettled and stressed, crimes happen and even increase. This teaching of Vimalakirti is what we need to protect nowadays.

Please continue your work, please purify your mind and align yourself. Then you know what you need to do next.

I am asking this from you all, please continue to purify your mind.