Our Sunday morning Practice begins with 108 Bows. Bowing is a way to purify oneself. Before bowing I prepare the proper mindset. Through bowing I learn to humble myself and how to have a healthy body and mind. I bow to realize that other lives are just as valuable as mine. I bow to get rid of my selfishness. I bow because it is the desire of my true self. I bow for all living things, and for peace in the universe.
Lotus Heart Zen's book 108 Bows of Great Repentance is a great resource.
What started me on this topic was not the bows but the number 108. For the life of me I could not remember why this number is important. It was 3:00 am--so calling my teacher was not a good idea. Ven. Myohye would give me 108 reasons why it was a bad idea. But I could not get it off my mind. So, I'm now at my desk at 3:30 am, trying to sort some mail, I see this face, on the cover of a book, with this impish grin smiling at me. Now I can answer the question regarding why we have 108.
We have six doors of perception: sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, and thought.
There are three aspects of time: past, present, and future.
There are two conditions of the heart-mind pure or impure, and
There are three possible attitudes: like, dislike, and indifference.
Korean Buddhists use this formula: 6 x 3 x 2 x 3 = 108 bows to cut through Karma.
Thank you, Ven. Wonji Dharma for providing the answer in his book It's All Good!
Don't Know - Part 2
There are three moments we are all aware of:
The truth is that problems come and problems go. But a problem always remains problematic, even when we think we have solved it, a problem is always a problem. Problems do not transform into something else. The nature of a problem is that it is potent, triggering, sometimes even painful. We often hold beliefs that the universe has singled us out and forced its judgment upon us. It's karma! We have all heard in response.
But that is a belief born out of ego and separateness. The universe isn’t picking on us and we are not being judged. Problems are only problems when we think we have a problem. Instead, of thinking we have a problem, we can remember Don't Know.
In experiencing Don't Know, we are engaged in practicing life AND life is engaged in practicing us. Once you perceive this experience it becomes very real and unmistakable.
Developing Don’t Know is very important in developing meditative awareness. At this point on our path, we may begin to experience a shift in our wider awareness. Events of life begin to lose substance, not that they don't have an impact, but the impact is less impactful. It is almost like experiences in our lives become like ghosts--they linger, but lose weight. This lingering sensation can be pleasurable and informative, or it can be uncomfortable even frightening at times. This awareness of ghostly lingering is our ego-ic state trying to resist the freedom of Don't Know.
Some part of your being is resisting the inevitable discomfort that awakening to Don't Know gives rise to. Don't Know and our ego-state are closely linked. In fact, Don't Know won't be perceived if we don't have some awareness of our ego-state. Remember we are both experiencing the absolute and relative simultaneously. Our practice doesn't encourage us to abandoned one over the other, yet the ego may want to convince us that the relative experience is most important.
The ghostly state of the lingering experiences of the ego in relationship to Don't Know is what comprises the whole of our experience in life.Our approach in life is best if it is practiced as though it is a continually unfolding experiment, of which we are the scientist observing and taking notes. If we drop the programming (the beliefs that try to distort our direct experience) we open ourselves up to living life and life living us.
Of course, in the beginning, and along the path, we follow a particular program of practice, look to beliefs to guide us and there is nothing wrong with that. But we must remember that while we may be learning this way, true reality is not programmable. There are no beliefs or concepts in living life and in life living us.
The challenge is that there is no way of knowing where we are on the path. We have no way of evaluating how well we are doing. We can determine a general starting point and we can keep track of our engagement along the way, but once we start the path of practice, we can only continue through our own individual commitment. That individual commitment depends on if we allow ourselves to have direct experience. Direct experience only occurs when we have dropped discursive thinking and when duality ceases to arise in our minds. Otherwise, our experience is distorted through the ego state that wants to take everything we perceive, separate it, and break it apart into polar opposites.
This is an excellent example of unprogrammed experience, in which we are simultaneously experiencing hot and cold—each in its own individuality. This is the experience of Don't Know in relation to the ego-state.
Don't Know is a state of total awareness--it requires nothing to sustain it. Don't Know is there. It is happening. When we are open to Don't Know we can feel that sense of totality. Using the flashlight metaphor, we perceive the light, but we are aware of all the space around us at the same time, not only what the light illuminates. So Don't Know is really a broader, more encompassing version of the present. Think of our experience of the present as the stills of a film strip. Our brains can only perceive the individual frames. Frame. Frame. Frame. Our brains stitch together the frames and it appears smooth and as though one continuous image. But that is not a complete understanding of the present. What is a film without light? The light that illuminates the film strip is Don't Know.
While Don't Know is not of the realm and function of the intellect, our ability to experience Don’t Know actually sharpens our minds and improves the intellect. Without the experience of egoless insight, we risk accepting things through distorted thinking and perceiving and this can form the basis for delusion.
Through this delusion, we begin to believe that everything appears predictable. But then "something" happens--as it inevitably will--that isn’t what we have accepted or predicted. Most of the time we react negatively. "No, no! This isn't how I want it. This isn't how it is supposed to be!" We resist, we delve deeper into separation and suffering arises. However, we can also understand that this "something" that happens is simply Don't Know reminding us of the truth of reality. If we accept this reminder, our experience becomes REAL. If we disregard this reminder we commit to confusion and disappointment.
Our practice of meditation (sitting meditation often being the most powerful, but really all kinds of meditation) can open us up to Don't Know. The more we open up to Don't Know and experience it directly, the easier it will be for us to navigate that uncomfortable state of navigating both the relative and absolute experience. The easier it is for us to be in that direct experience of Don't Know, the more we truly understand our own nature--the nature of reality--and the easier will be for us to act in accordance with Correct Situation, Correct Relationship, and Correct Function with confidence.
I would like to share with you some of Thich Nhat Hanh's thoughts on death and dying:
Please do not build a stupa for me. Please do not put my ashes in a vase, lock me inside, and limit who I am. I know it will be difficult for some of you. If you must build a stupa though, please make sure you put a sign on it that says, 'I am not here.' In addition, you can also put another sign that says, 'I am not out there either,' and the third sign that says, 'If I am anywhere, it is in your mindful breathing and in your peaceful steps.'
No coming, no going,
No after, no before.
I hold you close,
I release you to be free.
I am in you
And you are in me.
Thich Nhat Hanh's 10 Rules for Life:
1) Find your Buddha mind
2) Have compassion
3) Stop seeking others approval
4) Be open to the mysteries of life
5) Be aware of your body
6) Transform your suffering
7) Keep to your convictions
8) Cultivate stability
9) Get rid of anger
10) Practice meditation.
A blog by the Lotus Heart Zen Meditation and Study Group members