Tagged: Buddhism

What is Zen?

Thomas Merton describes in his 1961 book “Mystics and Zen Masters” how the tradition of Zen resonates and overlaps with mystical traditions worldwide. He also examines various Christian monastic traditions in order to show us the similarities and differences in the search for mystical experience across cultures and religions. The following comments, based on quotes from his book, illustrate that he understands the Zen insight as a direct grasp of being in itself, not an intuition of the nature of being. It is not an intellectual act, and also not the result of contemplation or other meditation practices. Merton also...

Diamond Sutra

The Diamond Sutra is one of the most historically important texts in Buddhism, in part because a copy of it is the oldest surviving dated printed book in the world (868 A.D.). Also known by its Sanskrit title Vajracchedika, the Diamond Sutra states that something is what it is only because of what it is not. The text challenges the common belief that inside each and every one of us is an immovable core, or soul. Instead, it proposes a more fluid and relational view of existence. The text is full of negative, or seemingly paradoxical statements by the Buddha, such...

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Chögyam Trungpa was one of the important exponents of Buddhism to western students. The 14th Dalai Lama said about Trungpa in 1981: “Exceptional as one of the first Tibetan lamas to become fully assimilated into Western culture, he made a powerful contribution to revealing the Tibetan approach to inner peace in the West.” Biography Chögyam Trungpa was born in Geja, Tibet in February 1939 and at 13 months old was recognized as a “reincarnation” of the tenth Trungpa Tulku, the 11th descendant in a line of teachers of the Kagyü lineage, one of the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism. He...

What creates the Identity of the Subject? A Dialog between Milinda and Nagasena.

It is hard to define what a subject really is. The following dialog from the Buddhist tradition shows that a materialist interpretation does not work. It is for instance not possible to find the identity of the subject in a  particular collection of elements, as the chariot example below shows. We face similar problems when we try to define what a “hole” is. The Milinda Panha, (or the  “Questions of Milinda”) is a Buddhist text from approximately 100 BCE. It is included in the Burmese edition of the Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhism. Milinda, (or King Menander I ) discusses...

Heart Sutra

This is the quintessential Buddhist text. It was written in the first century CE, and the earliest record of a copy of the sūtra is a 200-250CE Chinese version attributed to the monk Zhi Qian. Translation by George Boeree. Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, meditating deeply on Perfection of Wisdom, saw clearly that the five aspects of human existence are empty*, and so released himself from suffering.  Answering the monk Sariputra, he said this: Body is nothing more than emptiness, emptiness is nothing more than body. The body is exactly empty, and emptiness is exactly body. The other four aspects...

Buddha’s First Sermon

It is the Holy Eightfold Path, namely, Right Belief [understanding the truth about the universality of suffering and knowing the path to its extinction], Right Aspiration [a mind free of ill will, sensuous desire and cruelty], Right Speech [abstaining from lying, harsh language and gossip],
Right Conduct [avoiding killing, stealing and unlawful sexual intercourse], Right Means of Livelihood [avoiding any occupation that brings harm directly or indirectly to any other living being], Right Endeavor [avoiding unwholesome and evil things], Right Memory [awareness in contemplation], Right Meditation.

Genjokoan – The Actualization of Enlightenment

By Eihei Dogen Written in mid-autumn, 1233 Translated by Kosen Nishiyama and John Stevens (1975). When all things are the Buddha-dharma, there is enlightenment, illusion, practice, life, death, Buddhas, and sentient beings. When all things are seen not to have any substance, there is no illusion or enlightenment, no Buddhas or sentient beings, no birth, or destruction. Originally the Buddhist Way transcends itself and any idea of abundance or lack–still there is birth and destruction, illusion and enlightenment, sentient beings and Buddhas. Yet people hate to see flowers fall and do not like weeds to grow. It is an illusion...