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In Zen temples, monks in training awaken at three or four o’clock in the morning. As soon as they awaken, the monks go to the meditation hall (Zendo) and practice zazen for about an hour. Even if many people are present in the dark, pre-dawn hall, it is as quiet as if there were no one there at all. Occasionally the crack of the waking stick (Kyosaku) striking a monk’s shoulder breaks the stillness, but that rather leads into a pool of deeper quietness which stills the whole body.

During this period of zazen the temple bell in the bell tower (Shorodo) sounds 108 times, now loudly and now softly; rapidly, then, slowly. Some people are good at ringing bells and some are not. Also, depending upon the weather condition of the day, sometimes the bell sounds clearly and sometimes not so clearly.

One cold winter morning Ekido Zenji, who was sitting zazen with a large number of monks, heard the solemn resounding of the temple bell, and he sensed that there was something mysteriously different in the way the bell was being struck.

“That’s strange. This is the bell I’m used to hearing, but this morning I feel sternness in the sound which goes right through my body.”

After zazen Ekido returned to the abbot’s quarters and instructed the attendant, “Go call the one who struck the bell this morning.”

A newly arrived novice monk was ushered in. “You’re the one who hit the bell this morning, aren’t you,” said the abbot.

“Yes, sir. Well you see . . . this morning was the first time I . . . ,” stammered the novice, timidly bowing his head and probably thinking he was going to be scolded for ringing the bell badly.

“No, I didn’t summon you because you rang the bell badly. I want to ask you, what were your feelings when you struck the bell?”

The novice answered, “I was taught that to strike the bell is to hear the voice of the Buddha. It is to bring forth the Buddha. Therefore, when we hit the bell we must hit it with this attitude. This morning my turn to strike the bell came for the first time. So, concentrating on hearing the Buddha’s voice and bringing forth the Buddha from the bell, I put the strength of my whole body into my hands when I grasped the mallet, and I hit the bell. After each strike of the bell I put my hands together and made a prostration.”

“Oh, so that’s it,” said the Abbot. “Well, don’t forget that feeling when you practice.”

This novice, who adored Ekido Zenji’s noble character and who never left his side for eighteen years, was the man who became the sixty-fourth abbot of Eiheiji Temple, Morita Goyu Zenji.

The rosy future dreamed of with the period of rapid growth has already become a tale of daydreams. The technological revolution didn’t simply change the processes of production; it ended up changing, before we knew it, everything – from the structure of industry to the structure of society.

There are many who are constantly lamenting the misfortune of their downfall due to these new forces. Consequently, everyone wants to know when, how, and in what direction the world is going to change.

We know that if we drop a glass on concrete it will break, but we do not know into how many pieces it will break. In just this way, no one knows exactly what kind of change will occur. The uncertain future, the times already past, and the people around us are things we can not rely on too much. Therefore, the most important thing is to acquire the ability to adapt to any change; or, more precisely, to acquire the sense of self necessary to be the master of any situation, and to freely, according to our will, affect our environment which changes moment by moment.

This is nothing other than completely burning up our here-and-now life, which is the most certain thing in this uncertain world.

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have a zen-filled day

(~_~)

On this day, Morrie says that he has an exercise for us to try. We are to stand, facing away from our classmates, and fall backward, relying on another student to catch us. Most of us are uncomfortable with this, and we cannot let go for more than a few inches before stopping ourselves. We laugh in embarrassment.

Finally, one student, a thin, quiet, dark-haired girl whom I notice almost always wears bulky, white fisherman sweaters, crosses her arms over her chest, closes her eyes, leans back, and does not flinch, like one of those Lipton tea commercials where the model splashes into the pool..

For a moment, I am sure she is going to thump on the floor. At the last instant, her assigned partner grabs her head and shoulders and yanks her up harshly.

“Whoa!” several students yell. Some clap. Morrie finally smiles. “You see”, he says to the girl, “you closed your eyes, That was the difference. Sometimes you cannot believe what you see, you have to believe what you feel. And if you are ever going to have other people trust you, you must feel that you can trust them too – even when you’re in the dark. Even when you’re falling”.

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Learning Zen is a phenomenon of gold and dung.

Before you understand it, it is like gold.

After you understand it, it is like dung.

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don’t look back, you are not going that way

(~_~)

 

Buddha said: “I consider the positions of kings and rulers as that of dust motes. I observe treasures of gold and gems as so many bricks and pebbles. I look upon the finest silken robes as tattered rags. I see myriad worlds of the universe as small seeds of fruit, and the greatest lake in India as a drop of oil on my foot. I perceive the teachings of the world to be the illusion of magicians. I discern the highest conception of emancipation as a golden brocade in a dream, and view the holy path of the illuminated ones as flowers appearing in one’s eyes. I see meditation as a pillar of a mountain, Nirvana as a nightmare of daytime. I look upon the judgment of right and wrong as the serpentine dance of a dragon, and the rise and fall of beliefs as but traces left by the four seasons.”

A monk set off on a long pilgrimage to find the Buddha. He devoted many years to his search until he finally reached the land where the Buddha was said to live. While crossing the river to this country, the monk looked around as the boatman rowed. He noticed something floating towards them. As it got closer, he realized that it was the corpse of a person. When it drifted so close that he could almost touch it, he suddenly recognized the dead body – it was his own! He lost all control and wailed at the sight of himself, still and lifeless, drifting along the river’s currents. That moment was the beginning of his liberation.

(I thought about this short story and came to my own interpretation… perhaps this monk searched for Buddha and along the way, died. But he never quit searching, even in the after life?)

A nun who was searching for enlightenment made a statue of Buddha and covered it with gold leaf. Wherever she ent she carried this golden Buddha with her.

Years passed and, still carrying her Buddha, the nun came to live in a small temple in a country where there were many Buddhas, each one with its own particular shrine.

The nun wished to burn incense before her golden Buddha. Not liking the idea of the perfume straying to others, she devised a funnel through which the smoke would ascend only to her statue. This blackened the nose of the golden Buddha, making it especially ugly.

My wife has a green jade Buddha that she got from her father, ‘Mr. Ben’ who got it when he was stationed in Korea. It goes well in our bedroom that is decorated in oriental art, from the bedspread to the pictures on the wall and the shelf with oriental nick-nacks. (similar to the picture below, only the belly is bigger)

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have a zen filled day

(~_~)

When a novice starts learning martial arts, he wears a white belt, symbolic of innocence. After months of practice, the white belt gets dirty and turns brown, symbolic of the first degree of attainment. After more practice, the belt gets soiled and eventually turns black, symbolic of full attainment.

If the practitioner does not stop learning even after full attainment, the black belt starts getting frayed, turning almost white, symbolic of return to innocence. The frayed white belt represents technical competence of an experienced martial artist, combined with the innocence and receptivity of a beginner. It signifies going beyond technique and embracing no-technique—coming full circle.

story source: white belt

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The original martial arts used only one belt as described above. But now-a-days the different colored belts are used to describe the practitioners growth.

At inner spirit martial arts, the white belt was symbolic of the crane. Where speed was developed and patience acquired. A crane can only survive a tiger’s attack with evasive maneuvers.

Through much practice, exercise and persistence one attained an orange belt. The symbol for the Tiger, strength.

Then comes the green belt. Where the student learns holds and throws. Agility, vitality, perseverance.

here is where many schools differ, some will have blue belts (water), purple belts (air)  and other colors before the brown belt. Many will go from brown to black as is many customary practices. At Inner Spirit Martial Arts the brown belt symbolized: Earth, well grounded, growth, deeply rooted and solid.

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as shone here…

Red belt symbolized… the dragon, full of fire, energy and the stage where one readies them self for black belt testing.

To attain the black belt one must demonstrate their abilities in their style of martial arts. One of the key elements is teaching, for a black belts primary task will be to teach others… coming full circle.

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I thought about this when I went to work the other day and I was asked to mentor a new officer. To teach them the ways of our profession. I realized I had come full circle in my employment. No matter what you do in life, when you have reached a certain point in your life, you will end up teaching others. Rather it be a profession or a grandparent. So, teach them well…

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may you pass your wisdom on to another this day

(~_~)

When the nun Chiyono studied Zen under Bukko of Engaku she was unable to attain the fruits of meditation for a long time.

At last one moonlit night she was carrying water in an old pail bound with bamboo. The bamboo broke and the bottom fell out of the pail, and at that moment Chiyono was set free!

In commemoration, she wrote a poem:

In this way and that I tried to save the old pail
Since the bamboo strip was weakening and about to break
Until at last the bottom fell out.
No more water in the pail!
No more moon in the water!

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When Eshun, the Zen nun, was past sixty and about to leave this world, she asked some monks to pile up wood in the yard.

Seating herself firmly in the center of the funeral pyre, she had it set fire around the edges.

“O nun!” shouted one monk, “is it hot in there?”

“Such a matter would concern only a stupid person like yourself,” answered Eshun. The flames arose, and she passed away.

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Gisho was ordained as a nun when she was ten years old. She received training just as the little boys did. When she reached the age of sixteen she traveled from one Zen master to another, studying with them all.

She remained three years with Unzan, six years with Gukei, but was unable to obtained a clear vision. At last she went to the master Inzan.

Inzan showed her no distinction at all on account of her sex. He scolded her like a thunderstorm. He cuffed her to awaken her inner nature.

Gisho remained with Inzan thirteen years, and then she found that which she was seeking!

In her honor, Inzan wrote a poem:

This nun studied thirteen years under my guidance.
In the evening she considered the deepest koans,
In the morning she was wrapped in other koans.
The Chinese nun Tetsuma surpassed all before her,
And since Mujaku none has been so genuine as this Gisho!
Yet there are many more gates for her to pass through.
She should receive still more blows from my iron fist.

After Gisho was enlightened she went to the province of Banshu, started her own Zen temple, and taught two hundred other nuns until she passed away one year in the month of August.

http://spiritualinquiry.com/zen-stories/

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have a zen-sational day

(~_~)

 
Fran the Frog was the best chef in the whole swamp, and all the toads and frogs of the region enjoyed coming to her very select restaurant. Her ‘Flies in spicy bug sauce’ and her ‘Caramelised dragon flies wings with honey of bee’ were the kind of delicacies that every self-respecting frog should try; and that made Fran feel truly proud.

One day, Toby came to her restaurant, ready for a nosh. Toby was a great big toad, and certainly wasn’t the brightest. When Fran’s fine creations were brought before him he complained, saying that that wasn’t food, and that what he really wanted was a botfly burger. Fran came out of the kitchen to see what the problem was, and Toby told her that these dishes weren’t good enough for – and certainly wouldn’t fill – a Smooth Newt. This made Fran so offended, and furious, that she went to the kitchen, came back with a frying pan, and whacked Toby squarely on the forehead.

A slight scuffle ensued.

Even though Fran realised she should have controlled her temper, and she kept asking Toby to forgive her, the toad was so angry that he said he could only forgive her if she handed him the frying pan so he could hit her back.
Everyone tried to calm Toby down, knowing full well that, given his strength, he could easily crack little Fran’s head open with that frying pan.

Toby would not accept an apology, and Fran felt awful for having bashed him, so she tried everything. She gave him a special cream for bruises, she poured him an exquisite puddlewater liqueur. Even better than that, she cooked him a… beautiful botfly burger!

But Toby the Toad still insisted he would not be satisfied until he got to return the blow he had received. It had reached the stage where he was almost getting out of control.

Then a very old toad entered the restaurant, shuffling along with the help of two crutches.

– Wait Toby, – said the old toad -you can give her a whack after I’ve broken your leg. Remember that you are the reason why I have to walk with these crutches.

Toby didn’t know what to say.

He recognised the old toad. It was Reddit, his old teacher. When Toby was small, Reddit had saved him from a bunch of young hooligans. In the process, Reddit had lost a leg. Toby remembered that it had all happened because he had been highly disobedient, but he had never given a thought to Reddit until now…

Toby now realised he was being very unfair to Fran. Everyone, including himself, made mistakes sometimes. And if we are to return blow for blow, wound for wound, all we are doing is prolonging the damage. So, even though his head still hurt and he thought Fran had made quite a remarkable mistake with that frying pan, seeing her feeling so sorry, and doing everything she could to put things right, Toby decided to forgive her.

Apology accepted, they spent the rest of the evening laughing at what had happened, and enjoying wonderful botfly burgers. And everyone heartily agreed that that was a rather better idea than getting into problems with pans.

story source: a frog and a frying pan

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If every one lived by the rule an eye for an eye, the whole world would be blind.

when your cup over flows with cuteness… smile!

(~_~)

A man was on the side of the road with a large birdcage. A boy noticed that the cage was full of birds of many kinds.

“Where did you get those birds?” he asked.

“Oh, all over the place,” the man replied. “I lure them with crumbs, pretend I’m their friend then when they are close, I net them and shove them into my cage.”

“And what are you going to do with them now?”

The man grinned, “I’m going to prod them with sticks, and get them really and so they fight and kill each other. Those that survive, I will kill. None will escape.” The boy looked steadily at the man. What made him do such things? He looked into the cruel hard eyes. Then he looked at the birds, defenseless, without hope.

“Can I buy those birds?” the boy asked. The man hid a smile, aware that he could be on to a good thing if he played his cards right.

“Well,” he said hesitantly, “The cage is pretty expensive, and I spent a lot of time collecting these birds, I’ll tell you what I’ll do, I’ll let you have the lot, birds, cage and all for ten pounds and that jacket you’re wearing.” The boy paused, ten pounds was all he had, and the jacket was new and very special, in fact it was his prized possession.

Slowly, he took out the ten pounds and handed it over, then even more slowly he took off his jacket, gave it one last look then handed that over too.

And then (well, you’ve guessed it) he opened the door and let the birds go free.

MORAL OF THE STORY IS . . .

Evil, was on the side of life’s road with a very large cage. The man coming towards him noticed it was crammed full of people of every kind, young, old, from every race and nation.

“Where did you get all those people?” the man asked. “Oh, from all over the world,” Evil replied. “I lure them with drink, drugs, lust, lies, anger, hate, love of money and all manner of things. I pretend I’m their friend, out to give them a good time, then when I’ve hooked them, into the cage they go.”

this story found here!

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There is an old story about a fellow who lived alone and went to a pet store to buy a parrot. He thought the bird might fill some of his lonely hours. The very next day, however, he came back to complain, “That bird doesn’t talk.”

The store owner asked if he had a mirror in its cage, and the man said he didn’t. “Oh, parrots love mirrors,” he explained. “When he sees his reflection in the mirror, he’ll just start talking away.” So he sold him a birdcage mirror.

The bird owner was back the next day to gripe that his parrot still hadn’t said a word. “That’s very peculiar,” allowed the pet expert. “How about a swing? Birds really love these little swings, and a happy parrot is a talkative parrot.” So the man bought a swing, took it home, and installed it in the cage.

But he was back the next day with the same story. “Does he have a ladder to climb?” the salesman asked. “That just has to be the problem. Once he has a ladder, he’ll probably talk your ear off!” So the fellow bought a ladder.

The man was back at the pet store when it opened the next day. From the look on his face, the owner knew something was wrong. “Didn’t your parrot like the ladder?” he asked. His repeat customer looked up and said, “The parrot died.”

“I’m so sorry,” the stunned businessman said. “Did he ever say anything?”

“Well, yes. He finally talked just before he died. In a weak little voice, he asked me, ‘Don’t they sell any bird seed at that pet store?'”

Some of us have mistakenly thought that happiness consists of lining our cages with toys, gadgets, and other stuff. Excessive consumption has become the hallmark of American life. “Whoever has the most toys wins” seems to be the likely candidate to be the bumper sticker for an entire culture. But is it so?

There is a spiritual hunger in the human heart that can’t be satisfied by seeing one’s own image reflected back in vanity mirrors, playing with our grown-up toys, or climbing the corporate ladder. Our hearts need real nourishment.

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I know why the caged bird sings…

(~_~)

 

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A Thousand Words

Last night, the wife, my little 9 year old daughter and I watched the movie, “A Thousand Words.” I was taken by the movie’s ‘zen’ appeal and of course ‘Eddie Murphy’s’ comic charm. Even my lil girl laughed and loved the movie that was charming and filled with a wonderful message of, “the power of words.”

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After stretching the truth on a deal with a spiritual guru, literary agent Jack McCall finds a Bodhi tree on his property. Its appearance holds a valuable lesson on the consequences of every word we speak.

Eddie Murphy is Jack McCall, a fast-talking literary agent, who can close any deal, any time, any way. He has set his sights on New Age guru Dr. Sinja (Cliff Curtis) for his own selfish purposes.

But Dr. Sinja is on to him, and Jack’s life comes unglued after a magical Bodhi tree mysteriously appears in his backyard. With every word Jack speaks, a leaf falls from the tree and he realizes that when the last leaf falls, both he and the tree are toast. Words have never failed Jack McCall, but now he’s got to stop talking … or he’s a goner.

A Thousand Words

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Words are a powerful tool, but not just the words but the passion and emotions that we use with them matter as much as what we say. As in the story with Buddha and the lake, where a married couple scream at each other because their hearts have become distant, even though they stand next to each other. When their love was new and fresh, their hearts were so close that they did not need words, the heart knew what the other was feeling.

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I see this movie in so many others, you can’t take a hammer and pound zen into them. No matter how many stories, parables or quotes you throw at them, they just don’t get it. Like watching a dog chase it’s own tail, never going anywhere spiritually in life, just existing. In this movie, Eddie Murphy has to go through a harsh trial to understand, passion, a better way of living and of course the power of words. Needless to say, I recommend to all, watch this movie.

 words are tied to emotions like a tree’s root reaching into the earth.

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choose your words wisely

(~_~)

A Native American and his friend were in downtown New York City, walking near Times Square in Manhattan.  It was during the noon lunch hour and the streets were filled with people.  Cars were honking their horns, taxicabs were squealing around corners, sirens were blaring, and the sounds of the city were almost deafening.

Suddenly, the Native American said, “I hear a cricket.”

His friend said, “What?  You must be crazy.  You couldn’t possibly hear a cricket in all of this noise!”

“No, I’m sure of it,” the Native American said, “I heard a cricket.”

  “That’s crazy,” said the friend.

The Native American listened carefully for a moment, and then walked across the street to a big cement planter where some shrubs were growing.  He looked into the bushes, beneath the branches, and  sure enough, he located a small cricket.  His friend was utterly amazed.

“That’s incredible,” said his friend “You must have superhuman ears!”

“No,” said the Native American.  “My ears are no different from yours. It all depends on what you’re listening for.”

“But that can’t be!” said the friend.  “I could never hear a cricket in this noise.”

“Yes, it is, it depends on what is really important to you.  Here, let me show you.”

  He reached into his pocket, pulled out a few coins, and discreetly dropped them on the sidewalk.  And then, with the noise of the crowded street still blaring in their ears, they noticed every head within twenty feet turn and look to see if the money that tinkled on the pavement was theirs.

“See what I mean?” asked the Native American.  “It all depends on what’s important to you.”

this story found here

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It’s a cold day in December in New York City. A little boy about ten years old was standing before a shoe store on Broadway, barefooted, peering through the window, and shivering with cold. A lady approached the boy and said, “My little fellow, why are you looking so earnestly in that window?” “I was asking God to give me a pair of shoes,” was the boy’s reply.

The lady took him by the hand and went into the store, and asked the clerk to get a half dozen pairs of socks for the boy. She then asked if he could give her a basin of water and a towel. He quickly brought them to her. She took the little fellow to the back part of the store and, removing her gloves, knelt down, washed his little feet, and dried them with a towel. By this time, the clerk had returned with the socks. Placing a pair upon the boy’s feet, she then purchased a pair of shoes for him, and tying up the remaining pairs of socks, gave them to him. She patted him on the head, and said, “No doubt, my little fellow, you feel more comfortable now?”

As she turned to go, the astonished lad caught her by the hand and looking into her face with tears in his eyes, he answered the question with these words: “Are you God’s wife?”

–Author Unknown

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have an incredible day

(~_~)

Handsome is as handsome does

Every morning, before leaving his home, the great philosopher Socrates used to stand in front of a mirror and gaze attentively at his reflection for several minutes.
 
One day, a disciple came upon him doing this, and was unable to suppress a smile at the sight of his master examining himself so closely. Socrates turned to him and said, “You are smiling, no doubt, at the sight of this ugly old fellow staring at himself in the mirror, are you not? I do this everyday.”
 
Shamed, the disciple bowed his head, but before he could beg pardon, Socrates continued: “On seeing myself in the mirror everyday, I become aware of my own ugliness. This strengthens my resolve to live in a way that the virtue of my work may outshine the unattractiveness of my countenance.”
 
The disciple exclaimed, “Master, do you mean to say that those who are good looking should not look in a mirror at all?”

“Nothing of the sort” said Socrates. “They should also keep looking in the mirror to remind themselves to think, speak and behave in a way that is as beautiful and striking as they are. May not their actions cast a shadow over their pleasing appearance.”

In this way Socrates left behind a profound lesson for all of us: Handsome is as handsome does.

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After his service in the war, Socrates devoted himself to his favorite pastime: the pursuit of truth.

His reputation as a philosopher, literally meaning ‘a lover of wisdom’, soon spread all over Athens and beyond. When told that the Oracle of Delphi had revealed to one of his friends that Socrates was the wisest man in Athens, he responded not by boasting or celebrating, but by trying to prove the Oracle wrong.

So Socrates decided he would try and find out if anyone knew what was truly worthwhile in life, because anyone who knew that would surely be wiser than him. He set about questioning everyone he could find, but no one could give him a satisfactory answer. Instead they all pretended to know something they clearly did not.

Finally he realized the Oracle might be right after all. He was the wisest man in Athens because he alone was prepared to admit his own ignorance rather than pretend to know something he did not.

Know thy self… Socrates

(~_~)

Art~

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