Tag Archives: practice

2016-05 May Shinnyo Podcast – Practice

2016-05 May Shinnyo Podcast – Practice

  • What is a Practice?
  • Why do we Practice (and not Preach?)
  • The Story of Buddha and the 3 Monks
  • Practice is Not Perfect
  • Balance of Time – Working with Karma

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theoryintopractice
Courtesy of creative-remembering-techniques.com

What is a practice? Pretty much anything you do.  What is not practice? Thinking without action, although philosophically-speaking, inaction is still action, as it results in an outcome whether intended or not.

Practice in this context, is not limited to something specific you’re trying to learn, Philosophically, we could say we’re learning throughout our lives, each and every day, so that’s how our “practice” extends throughout our days, indeed throughout our lives.

But isn’t it good enough to be really loud and speak your thoughts like a broadcast?

the-brixton-evangelist
Street evangelism 1950’s Brixton, UK

What happens when you hear such a person?  Is it a moment to stop, listen and contemplate carefully what they’re saying?  Or do you mentally try to block out the extreme noise, and make a mental note to avoid that place in the future.  After all, if it works for cheerleading, why wouldn’t it work for all communication?

51176-318x283-megaphone2
Cheerleading with megaphone

If you observe the difference in context, you can see or maybe hear, the difference between an audience that wants to hear you (and can’t because you’re very far away,) versus one who is trying to tune you out and being viewed as an irritant rather than a example.

Master Shinjo once related how different types of people react to guidance with a story about Shakyamuni Buddha and his disciple Ananda walking home one night. They came across three monks who had been drinking something that was forbidden for monks at the time. The first monk quickly hid on the side of the road behind the bushes hoping not to be discovered.  The second monk averted his gaze and walked quickly past the Tathagata hoping not to be noticed.  The third monk thought that the money he spent was his own and boldly walked calmly right in front of the Buddha without care.  Master Shinjo’s notes on this encounter mention that the first monk represents readily instructable people who are open to new ideas, the second person might need more specific examples and might question reasoning but are motivated by emotional care and compassion, and the third person might need actual correction and regulation in order to learn a new behavior.  Depending on the person, your words and actions might be absorbed readily like a thirsty sponge, or discarded as so much hearsay and opinion.  For those interested in delving further into this story, next month’s podcast will explore the realms of the three areas of Intrinsic, Compassionate and Strict styles of teaching (the 3-Wheel Turning Bodies of the Buddha, Kannon Bodhisattva and Mahavairochana Achala.)

About 2 years ago, I decided that collecting guitars was not the same as actually playing them and signed up for formal lessons.  A long time had passed since I last had something that needed periodic and continued effort to get past my own mental and physical blocks to mastery, and this instrument had become one of those – the kind of situation where you can play “Stairway to Heaven” until people don’t want to hear you any more, but you can’t pick up a random music score and play it because you’re not familiar with how it goes. It’s very similar to saying, “I’m a very religious person,” and everyone nods their heads and thinks, “yes, and one day we’ll see it by actual example.” In this way, you can be doing or saying something quite clear, honest and with great intent, but without reflection upon the outcome of such actions, there really isn’t any measure for improvement or failure.

Just as much as every day we are sedentary, we lose some 1% of our muscle mass per year after 50, the same goes with both our minds, and our efforts to practice. Like that slowly leaking balloon that looks really great floating around, but it’s ever so slowly losing its helium and eventually grounds itself as a deflated rubber raisin, when we don’t do something each day to offset our little sack of karma, it too gets slowly heavier and heavier through natural entropy. To keep our momentum going and that sack staying as light as it can be, it takes daily efforts, and renewed exertion to offset the gentle though persistent waves of sediment that slowly build up over time, and eventually can solidify into much harder to break stone.  This is an example of the same person transitioning between starting out like the first monk described above, and later developing into the third monk even without intent to do so.

/* That’s it for this session. Thank you for listening. For more information feel free to e-mail me at jlui at jlui dot net, or twitter @jhlui1 With Gassho, James*/

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2013-February Shinnyo-en Buddhism Podcast – Your Heart and The Stars

2013-February Shinnyo-en Buddhism Podcast – Your Heart and The Stars

Creating Your Own Destiny (and Reality)
Why the Stars are Prominent in Buddhism
Practice from Your Heart

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Some people say they were born unlucky.  Yet we are the ones who create our future, and we can change our destiny at every moment of every day, with each decision and action we choose to take. From the winter solstice to the seasonal divide [in Jpn. setsubun, or the coming of spring], days grow longer as part of the yearly cycle. That is when a negative phase begins turning into a positive phase (and in the skies, the cross-over of the equatorial divide occurs from the Southern hemisphere to the Northern side.)

During the winter service rituals, we make offerings to the stars that “govern” our lives signifying our choice to respect that which is beyond our control. This comes from practices adopted into Esoteric Buddhism in which stars and planets were regarded as divinities, and included in mandalas for prayers and rituals. This gave people a practical means of effecting inner transformation by linking with the cosmic forces that move the stars in the sky and rotate the planet without our human intervention.

The Star Ritual period, during which a star offering rite is conducted daily, is held beginning with the winter solstice and concluding at the traditional seasonal divide. It comes at the time of the lunar New Year, when we are reminded of change, especially within ourselves. The Star Ritual acts as our own ritualistic purification of the delusions or karma that hinder our buddha nature from emerging. The practices of purification for spiritual growth and repentance for inner purification are performed along with the prayers and rituals. The rites are directed at transforming the stars that govern negativity into ones that govern and boost positivity, and help to reorient our minds so that we can transform our lives in the New Year. The Shinnyo-en Winter Training is held beginning with the new year and also concluding with the seasonal divide. That is why the end of the Winter Training coincides with the final homa (or spiritual purification ceremony) of the Star Ritual. During Winter Training, we endeavor in acts of purification—specific acts of practice to polish ourselves and awaken our buddha nature.
The underlying significance of Winter Training for our sangha will remain unchanging in the eternal future. As the first Shinnyo-en Winter Training started with the enshrinement of the Mahavairochana Achala back in 1935, it is a period for practitioners to go back in spirit to the beginning and renew their vow to uphold the  dharma and embody the spirit of Achala’s embodiment of perseverance and determination deep within their own hearts and minds. When our faith remains unwavering and we strive in altruistic practice, we can help to fill the world with “everlasting hope.”

In this month’s premier issue of the new English-language publication “Resonance” (formerly “The Nirvana”, available online to Shinnyo practitioners world-wide), an early observation from Master Shinjo Ito provided the essential distillation of all dharma teachings:

Jan-1975: A letter requesting that I contribute an article for the magazine Josei Bukkyo [“Women in Buddhism”] arrived while I was out preparing for a propagation trip to [the northern region of] Tohoku. Upon my return I read the letter, and when I saw the proposed title, “The Nirvana Sutra: A Light in My Heart,” I truly felt that the Mahaparinirvana (Nirvana) Sutra is indeed a light in my heart. I would even go as far as to say it is my life.

(Buddha Shakyamuni)  urges each individual to become a person who gives true spiritual support and encouragement to others. At the same time, he explains that the Nirvana teachings cannot be grasped only by theory or logic but must be mastered above all through actual practice; that is, putting the teachings into action.

In this world of the present, it may seem as if everything we see and hear brings us only anxiety, fear, or anger instead of happiness and joy. We may simply shrug our shoulders at the situation, but are we not also committing, unknowingly or at times even knowingly, the same kind of negative actions in our daily lives [that cause this anxiety, fear, or anger in others]? From child discipline to nuclear war, I think we need to give thought and reflection to these problems [instead of turning a blind eye to them]. These are not someone else’s issues. I believe the first step in Buddhism can be summed up in the phrase “give matters due thought.”

 

2013-January Shinnyo-en Buddhism Podcast – Arts and Growing

2013-January Shinnyo-en Buddhism Podcast – Arts and Growing

[audio https://jhlui1.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/201301_shinnyo_podcast.mp3]

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2013 Guideline, Items of Practice, Sonouta

Many of history’s greatest leaders share a commonality – a side affection for the Arts, whether it be music, painting, fictional literature, or even acting.  It may be that these elemental activities, that are based more on individual creativity and interpretation than well-defined scientific guidelines are what create the flexible and innovative leaders around us.

For example, a leader who has been well-versed in laws and regulations, who knows how to “play exactly by the book” may be left uncertain in times demanding alternative approaches, or when facing rapidly changing challenges.

The person who is used to making the best of whatever the given situation presents, often has the freedom to think beyond conventional solutions and offer new strategies that may extend far beyond the conservative mindset.

Today the world is facing endless problems due to climate change, political tensions, economic crises, a soaring population, natural disasters and diseases, but the lovingkindness that already lies within our hearts and forms the core of genuine spiritual practice can help dispel these dark clouds to reveal a brighter future.  Lovingkindness is the good within us and the basis of humanity and philanthropy.

Acts of lovingkindness will lead to the serenity and peace of mind that comes from feeling close to others. Good things come from loving acts and kindness is born from putting one’s beliefs into practice. As our kind and caring actions accumulate, we come to understand through personal experience the interdependence of all life along with the joy of living and being given life.  To begin this process, the steps we take, however small, should be sincere and full of lovingkindness.  Every moment that we spend being a good friend to others polishes our buddha nature further, allowing us to move closer to buddhahood.

Shinso Ito, our head priest of Shinnyo-en set forth the guidelines for 2013 during the January 1st service:

With sincere efforts made towards a borderless realm of shinnyo,
And following the example of the Shinnyo Parents,
Let us expand our ties of friendship in the world.

To help put this into practice, the two guidelines are:
1. Contributing through steps of lovingkindness.
2. Acting on our sesshin experience.

As the practice of sesshin training helps of understand our own flaws and areas needing encouragement, it is not enough just to understand that you and I have things needing improvement, but we must take steps towards actually changing ourselves as part of our efforts to reflect a better example for others.

We close with the 2013 Sonouta which reads:

Let us never fail to endeavor and pray till the world of joy is realized.

Note that prayer and self-focus is second, and making efforts comes first. This is because by actually engaging in honest efforts to encourage and support others, self-transformation comes as a symmetrical byproduct of the process. The spirit of friendship will expand in the world when we strengthen the bond we have to our own buddha nature, and to each other.

A Bunch of Acting/Improv/Drama Warm-ups From a Brit across the Pond

From Andy Kempe’s, “The National Drama Secondary Drama Teachers’ Handbook: 2nd Edition, National Drama, London 2001”
Alphabeti cannelloni
Standing on chairs or benches the class arrange themselves alphabetically by squeezing past each other. The game must be played in silence.
And then…
In pairs, one person starts to tell a story but breaks off with the words ‘And then…’ The partner carries on the story but again stops after a few sentences with ‘And then…’
Bang!
Stand in a circle. Point James Bond style at another player and say ‘Bang’. That players crouches down and the ones either side face each other and repeatedly say ‘Bang’. The first one to run out of breath is out. The winner then ‘Bangs’ someone else in the circle.
Bing Bong
In a circle. Pass an object around clockwise saying,‘This is a Bing.’
The receiver says ‘ A what? ’
and the leader says ‘ A Bing.’
That player then passes it onsaying ‘ This is a Bing’.
The player they pass it to says ‘ A what? ’
And they must turn to the leader and say ‘ A what? ’
The answer ‘A Bing’ is then passed on.
The game is complicated when a different object, called ‘A Bong’ is passed anti-clockwise.
Blood potato
The group walk around the room with their eyes shut. When they bump into another person they say ’Potato’ and get the reply ‘Potato’. The teacher will have tapped one player on the head. They are the
‘Blood Potato’. When players bump into someone and say ‘Potato’ but get the reply ‘Blood Potato’ they scream and then move to the side to watch the others playing.
Boom chicka boom
This is a simple call and response exercise which can be developed into something as complex as you please! Standing in a circle, the leader calls ‘I said a boom chicka boom’ and the class repeat this. The leader says the line again and the class repeats it. Then the leader says ‘I said a boom chicka chicka chicka chicka chicka boom’ and the class repeat it. And so it goes on…
Budgies, Bull and Bananas
The leader points to a person in a circle and says ‘Budgie’. That person becomes a budgie and the players on either side represent a mirror and a bell.The leader adds in more options such as Bat, Bull, Banana, Baboon, Beggar. For each one, the player pointed at represents the object and the players either side complement the image.
Chairee Ho!
Individuals work with a chair. Each time the teacherclaps her hands they must use the chair in a new way. Initially they signal different types of chair then move on to using the chair to represent different sorts of objects. The game is all about using mime and register to signal clearly. It can be extended into paired improvisations with the first player saying and doing something that will clearly signal to the partner what sort of chair it is.
Chatting through the A – Z
In pairs, players improvise a conversation but the first word of each new line of dialogue must work through the alphabet.
Count-up
In a circle, players try to count from 1 – 20. If two players speak at once they go back and start the count again.
Dracula
The leader stands in the middle of a circle and moves slowly towards a ‘victim’ who must make eye contact with someone else. That player says the victim’s name. They then become Dracula’s victim.If Dracula reaches them before they have got some-one to say their name they must become Dracula.
Fee Fi Fo
This is a call and response vocal warm up. The lines are as follows:
Fee
Fee fi
Fee fi fo
Vista
Cwm a la cwm a la cwm a la vista
Oh oh oh oh ah la vista
Eeny meeny decka meeny do what you wanna meeny
Zip diddely doo dah do do dha da dah
Fruit bowl
Players are seated in a circle and names ‘Apple,Banana, Pear’. One player stands in the middle and calls ‘Apple’. All the apples change seats. The player in the middle tries to get to one first, leaving another caller in the middle. If they call ‘Fruitbowl’ everyone must move.
Funky Chicken
Players shake their left hand vigourously counting up to ten. Then they shake their right hand, left foot and right foot, each time counting to ten. Repeat this counting up to eight, then six, then four, then two and finally one after which they all turn into chickens and call out ‘Funky chicken!’
Gatwick Airport
Players sit in a circle facing outwards. One chair is left empty. A volunteer tourist tries to get to the chair but the other passengers keep moving round the circle of chairs trying to stop them.
Get knotted
Stand in a circle with hands linked. The group weave in and out of each other until they are in a tight knot. They mustn’t let go off the hands they are holding, but then try to untie the knot.
Gretna Green
Stand in a circle with hands linked. One couple, with hands linked, move around the outside of the circle. When they tag another couple by touching their linked hands, that couple must leave the circle and race around anti-clockwise trying to get back to their space before the first couple, running clockwise, get there.
Hi Ho
Sit in a circle. Each player has a shoe in front of them. The shoes are passed around the circle to the tune of:
Hi Ho, Hi Ho It’s off to work we go with a shovel and a pick and a walking sticking hi ho hi ho hi ho hi ho hi ho it’s off to work we go…
Honey I love you!
In a circle one player says to another ‘Honey I love you, but I just can’t smile’. This is passed around the circle. Anyone who smiles is out.
Hot cakes
The teacher calls out a number or holds up a number of fingers. The class must get into groups of thatnumber in silence. The game can be extended so that once in the group they must make a geometric pattern with their bodies but again they must organize this without talking.
Juicy Fruit
In a circle mime passing round a piece of chewing gum. Each player has a chew then passes it on in an imaginative way.
Just a minute please
In pairs, one player talks on a topic for one minute. The listener must then relate what they have heard as exactly as possible to a new partner.
Liar!
In a circle. One player jumps into the middle and starts miming something. Someone else jumps in and asks ‘What are you doing? ‘ The first player must say that they are doing something different from what they are actually miming. The second player calls ‘Liar!’ but then starts to mime whatever they have been told. A third player jumps in and so on.
Oh yes!
In a circle, one player says the name of someone across the circle who must reply ’Oh yes!’ The first player then starts to walk towards their space while the second player says someone else’s name. The game is to get people moving across the circle as quickly as possible but no-one can move until they have been invited with an ‘Oh yes!’. Try to get lots of variations into how to say ‘Oh yes!’
On the bank
Players crouch down. The teacher demonstrates a simple action to go with the line ‘On the bank’ but tries to catch them out by saying the line and doing the wrong action. Add more lines such as ‘In the trees’, ‘In the pond ‘. The game is all about listening carefully rather than watching and copying.
Phantom Tickler
The group must start with their eyes closed. The teacher taps one player on the head. They open their eyes and the teacher points out a victim to them. They are now the Phantom Tickler. Everyone opens their eyes and starts to move around warily. The Phantom Tickler must stalk the victim, trying to get close up behind them and then tickling them round the middle.
Postcards
An extension of hot-cakes, groups of varying sizes must use their bodies to represent postcards from major tourist sites around the world.
Pussy want a corner
The group stands in a square, one player in the middle. This player goes up to individuals and says ‘Pussy wants a corner ‘. The answer is always ‘No!’ Other players in the square make eye contact with each other and try to swop places. If pussy gets to a space first they are replaced in the middle.
Safety net
In a circle, one by one players are invited to shut their eyes and walk across the circle. The players in the circle must protect those with their eyes shut and not allow them to bump into each other.
Squeeze
Players stand in a tight circle. One volunteer stands on the outside but tries to break into the middle ofthe circle by whatever means they can dream up.
Tag impro
Two players start an impro. in the middle of a circle.Another player can call ‘Freeze’ at any point. They then replace one of the first players by adopting their position exactly but re-starting the impro. Signalling a completely different scenario.
Where is Maria?
The teacher says ‘Where is Maria? ‘, the class answer ‘I don’t know.’ The teacher says ‘I don’t know’, the class says ‘Where is Maria? ‘
Teacher says ‘Um pa’, the class says ‘Yatatata’ and reverse.
Teacher says ‘Yes’, class say ‘No’ and so on. They have to listen carefully.
Who’s got the clap?
In a circle, the leader claps hands. The player on the left claps hands and so on round the circle. Now try it with your eyes shut or make it more complex by passing a number of claps round simultaneously in different directions.
Wink murder
In a circle, players have their eyes shut while the teacher nominates a murderer. One player then stands in the middle and tries to catch the murderer who is killing people by winking at them.
Zoof, Ho, Zap (Woosh, Bong, Hyperspace, Interstate)
In a circle, the leader passes round a mimed ball. As it is passed on, the players call ‘Zoof ‘. A player may block the pass and send it back by saying ‘Ho’ or pass it across the circle by pointing and calling ‘Zap’. Add as many new moves as you please

2012-June Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast – The Path to Happiness/The Goreiju

2012-June Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast
The Path to Happiness
How The Goreiju Melody Came to Be

2012-June Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast

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The path to our own happiness and the path to making others happy are one and the same. When we completely dedicate ourselves towards the well-being of others, our individual path to happiness begins to unfold before us. True joy results from single-minded devotion in this endeavor of gladly striving to give joy to others. Religious practice does not mean passively asking for blessings to make up for our shortcomings; rather it is an active process of spiritual growth that results from walking the path revealed before us each and every day. Hoping for a positive result without walking such a path is like anticipating the harvest without having planted any seeds.

Instead of spending our time as we like, thinking only of ourselves, to follow the Shinnyo Teaching means to dedicate our time to others and benefit them as well. That’s when we discover true freedom, and our lives become radiant. The joy of practice comes from stepping forward to make others happy in whatever way we can. If you think, “I may be unable to do much, but at least I can do this,” “I can help my family or those around me in this way,” or, “I can give of myself in service somewhere,” then keep that thought close to your heart and don’t let it slip away. The secular and the religious life are wholly compatible.

How, then, do we practice in a balanced way? With the Teaching as the common denominator, we can start to see beyond our usual way of doing things, appreciate how others have overcome problems, draw upon the wisdom they have cultivated, and broaden our own perspective as we discover other ways of seeing the world. Regarding other people’s concerns as our own and identifying with their experiences enables us to take a fresh look at ourselves. When we look at those around us, we might even see the way we used to be. When we gather and meet, we should listen to each other with humility and share our thoughts and experiences. We can then rediscover the goodness, warmth, and compassion inside of us that we may have perhaps long forgotten. There are many who could benefit from your advice and experiences that when shared with others, often shows the commonality that lies between all of our lives.

The melody of the Goreiju, or mantra of Achala’s Benevolence and Liberation, has been described as an evocative, spiritual tune, both melancholic and sweet, and yet not an elegy. The pitch rises and falls with a slow, certain rhythm, turning the Shingon dharma chant into a melody that naturally brings tears to our eyes. But what is the origin of this particular melody?

Back in 1936, when the founders of Shinnyo-en first embarked on their spiritual path, their year- old first born son who was born on a bitterly cold winter night had begun showing signs of illness. Their house was full, day and night, with people asking to be cured of illnesses and seeking other prayers to be answered. They busily spent their days conducting prayer rituals and guiding the practitioners in meditation, but at night had their hands filled caring for their critically ill son. This was at a time in Japan just after World War I, when poverty was wide-spread and starvation and hunger abounded since most of the precious resources had been consumed during the long years of battle. Every night his mother would chant the words of Achala’s mantra with a soft melody similar to a lullaby, or children’s song, and their son would finally look relieved and settle into sleep. This melodic gift, borne from a mother’s love for her suffering child is what we have come to know as The Goreiju, or spiritual mantra.

Their first son passed away a mere 22 months into his life, and exactly 100 days after the founders had committed themselves to a life of spiritual commitment. How would you receive this kind of painful experience if you had just committed to a different life? Would you be deterred from your chosen path? In this moment of pain that only a parent who loses a child can know, the founders witnessed the exchange of their child’s life and the emergence of a melodic mantra that seemed to touch people’s hearts and unifies their spirits. They saw how the never-ending turning of the wheel of life teaches us to treasure the fragility of life, and that every moment is precious. By giving the Goreiju to the rest of the world through Shinnyo-en, the founders also wished to encourage us to give the same compassionate feelings for others, reminding ourselves that the suffering of others is what we can change through our daily actions.

2012-April Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast

2012-April Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast
Five Behavioral Ideals for 2012 (+3 bonus ones)
Month of Rebirth and Departure from Suffering

Shinnyo-en Monthly Focus Podcast 2012-April 

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In this month of April, 2012, also the centennial year of our dharma mother, Shojushin’in-sama, we are reminded that one of her most treasured ways of communicating the Teaching to us was through her kitchen sermons, outlined in-detail within her two Wisteria Cluster books.

There were a total of seventeen such ideals she created, to remind each of us in a simple way how to remain solid on your path towards enlightenment.

On the sange petal papers being issued during several key services throughout this year will be the following five ideals from those seventeen teachings:

Be gentle, yet strong.

Be a person whom others miss.

Do not fight.

Treat people with respect.

And Always smile when meeting people.

Her Holiness Keishu-sama has also provided two rephrased versions of the ideals to be better interpreted in our modern eenvironment.

They are:
To Bring out your true self – referring to the buddha nature that lies within each of us, and encouraging you to express this goodness at every opportunity. Learning to act with kindness and wisdom and letting go of anger, jealousy and other attachments transforms your perceptions from suffering into appreciation for each opportunity to adapt and improve yourself, and others.

Next is, Always keep in mind that you are a Shinnyo practitioner. Some situations may require calm acceptance, while others need candid and truthful advice, but both should be performed without giving into your emotions, but rather with compassion towards the other person. Sometimes we need to support others by providing silence and listening, but others may need strong leadership and for you to set the example of how to behave in a better manner.

Keishu-sama’s last reminder this month is to Avoid gossip. Period. This means stepping into the other person’s place and reminding yourself that being the subject of someone else’s gossip about you is painful and hard to understand. If you have opinions of others, think of how you would want to be approached by someone else thinking the same of you. How would you want to be informed of something confusing or questionable that others saw? Hopefully you would prefer someone confiding directly to you, and using kind words or supportive thoughts and suggestions.

April, the month of Buddha‘s birth, is known affectionately as the month of rebirth, and departure from suffering. Each of these ideals is meant to give you a way to measure your own progress along the way through life. And hopefully as you hold yourself to higher ideals, others will be inspired by your efforts to polish your own actions and behavior.