UU Buddhists, who combine Unitarian Universalism and Buddhism, “may be the largest convert Buddhist grouping in the country right now,” says James Ford, a Zen priest and Unitarian Universalist minister. As senior minister of the First Unitarian Society in Newton, Massachusetts, and a leading teacher at Boundless Way Zen, a regional consortium of Zen groups, Ford exemplifies the not-one, not-two spirit of UU Buddhism. Buddhism can offer Unitarian Universalists profound contemplative experience, and Unitarian Universalism can offer American Buddhists a traditional American-style congregation.
The Huayan, or Flower Ornament Sutra, with its vivid metaphors and extravagant visions, is not widely known in the West, yet it has had a profound and lasting impact on the way Zen and Chan Buddhism are practiced. Taigen Dan Leighton explores the sutra’s teachings on interconnectedness and the inspiration that it holds for practitioners today.
Chinese Huayan Buddhism is considered by many Buddhist scholars to be one of the highpoints of Mahayana thought, even of world philosophy.
If you want to understand the full truth of “form is emptiness; emptiness is form,” says Robert Aitken Roshi, you must go beyond the Heart Sutra to philosophical texts like the Huayan Sutra, which unpack and elaborate this profound paradox.
I once attended a memorial service for an old grandmother in Mishima, Japan. She had been a Zen student, and members of her family had connections with Shingon and Nichiren sects as well. A priest from each of these three denominations took part in the service, and they joined in reciting the Heart Sutra together.
The late Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, one of the great Buddhist teachers of the twentieth century, offers four sets of pithy teachings on bringing the absolute nature into our path.
Teachings by Dilgo Khyentse on Zurchung Sherap Trakpa’s1 Eighty Chapters of Personal Advice, based on Shechen Gyaltsap’s2 commentary. The lines from Zurchungpa’s root text appear in bold and Shechen Gyaltsap’s notes and structural outline appear in italics. Dilgo Khyentse’s commentary appears in roman text.
Son, there are four instructions for using things as the path.
As it is said in the Six Prerequisites for Concentration:
On account of material possessions one suffers.
To own nothing is supreme bliss.
By abandoning all its food,
The pelican becomes ever happier.
If you think you’re seeing things as they really are, think again, says Ajahn Brahm. Unless you’ve had the deep experience of letting go known as the jhana states, there is only a myriad of illusions.
Meditation is the way of letting go. First you let go of all perceptions of time to enter the timeless present moment. Then you let go of inner speech to rest peacefully in silent awareness. Next, you let go of most of your five senses’ activity, just keeping awareness of your breath. Then you let go of your breath and watch it disappear.
At this stage, you can no longer see, hear, smell, taste, or feel touch. It appears that your body has vanished, and in its place you are mindful of a beautiful light, the nimitta. The nimitta is a reflection of the citta (the mind), seen through the sixth sense. Then you let go of all controlling to merge into the light and enter the bliss of the jhana world. Thus, jhanas are what happen automatically when you really let go; they are described as the deep stages of letting go. The Buddha clearly and repeatedly stated that full enlightenment could not be attained without the experience of a jhana. Yet today, some teachers claim that such a degree of letting go is unnecessary. They often cite the Buddha’s well-known brief teaching to Bahiya, as recorded in the Udana (Ud 1.10).
The view, teachings, and challenges of Dzogchen
Introduction by Barry Boyce
Sometimes the Buddhadharma forum asks people from different traditions to discuss a common Buddhist principle, like karma or the kleshas, or to explore issues that challenge the Buddhist community as a whole, such as how we can extend a helping hand to the world. At other times, we take a fly-on-the-wall approach, and listen in as members of one particular tradition discuss the nature of their path and practice. In this forum, we’ve brought together several noted practitioners of the Vajrayana tradition of Dzogchen to discuss this profound path of simplicity, which seems both utterly accessible and inaccessible all at once.
Heart advice by Dzogchen masters, from the newly translated collection of teachings, Quintessential Dzogchen.
Mirror to Reflect the Most Essential: The Final Instruction on the Ultimate Meaning
By Longchen Rabjam
Single embodiment of compassionate power and activities
Of infinite mandalas of all-encompassing conquerors,
Glorious guru, supreme lord of a hundred families,
Forever I pay homage at your feet.
Ema! Listen here, you fortunate yogis.
Newly translated works by the renowned Korean poet Ko Un offer powerful glimpses into the human condition and the paradoxes of the Buddhist path.
Introduction by Gary Gach
Glancing at these pages, you might get the impression that someone picked up a brush without knowing whether to write a poem or draw a drawing. A perpetual freshness permeates the atmosphere.
Hand in hand with such immediacy and spontaneity, you can freely glide through these poems like a fish unaware of the water—and suddenly be surprised by the taste of the entire ocean in just one drop: That shock of recognition. Words can point beyond words. To silence (which makes words possible). To the whole cosmos. To the luminosity of being. To the heart within the heart.
By Bodhin Kjolhede
The American tradition is to use all traditions freely, and for several decades now American Buddhists have been doing just that. Here on American soil, we’re cultivating a mixture of dharma seeds sown by our various Asian forebears, and while the yield from this effort is only beginning to be seen, it surely embodies the native soil—us Americans—at least as much as the seeds. We might pause, then, to consider the American character as it relates to practice, focusing on those traits most likely to challenge us as practitioners.
The subject-object split is part of the human condition, but nowhere is the concept of a fixed, discrete self so entrenched—and so celebrated—as in this country. This obsession with “I,” “me,” and “my” creates a world of trouble in practice as we keep getting in our own way, tripping over all those opinions and preferences and comparisons with others that we count on to secure our selfhood.
Q: Buddhism stresses having compassion for others, trying to reach the “soft spot” in their hearts in order to communicate with them. However, recently, in my own life, I have come to realize that there are people who do not wish me well and, in fact, actively pursue harming me in some way. Devious and manipulative people do exist and being in their presence can feel truly toxic. In fact, I’ve experienced real physical symptoms of illness and weakness when I am in the presence of such people for too long a time. Is it ever permissible to stop trying to connect with this type of person and just remove oneself as much as possible from their negative influence?