Thursday, May 21, 2009

Hush Hush

"Hush Hush" number 54 of 200 from Robert Aitken's book Miniatures of a Zen Master.

In so many ways our cultural conditioning causes us to miss important chances for intimacy. Zen practice helps us see the our conditioning. What we think is real and important turns out to be very different from the experience of this very moment, the only moment in which we have any chance of intimacy.

Five trainings and practices of Zen that soften our cultural condition.
  1. Death approaches rapidly. Being actively aware of this throughout the day clarifies what is important and what is trivial. This is part of the Five Remembrances.
  2. Right Speech is harder and more important than we can know. Our words have the power to break or save people, make enemies or friends, start conflict or create harmony. This is part of the Eightfold Path. Right Speech can be expressed both negatively and positively.
    • Don't speak deceitfully becomes be honest in speech
    • Don't speak maliciously against others becomes be caring in speech
    • Don't use harsh words that hurt others becomes be gentle in speech
    • Abstain from idle chatter becomes speak only when necessary
  3. The precept of not lying which is part of the Zen Buddhist Precepts. Just seeing how our culture fosters and makes okay little lies and how those little lies can be used to justify bigger and bigger lies and deceits. Main stream advertising is the obvious example. Sure there are positive examples and uses of advertising but these are currently the exception. (There are hopeful signs here and there.)
  4. Zazen, a daily sitting practice. Sitting facing the wall with breath, question or just this present moment bucks everything our culture tells us we should be doing. Cultural conditioning tells us "you" should be doing "X", "you" should have "X", "you" should want "X", "you" should look like "X", and on and on. When you hear the voice in your head say either "you" or "should" we can be sure that what is speaking is cultural conditioning.
  5. Sesshin, quoting Robert Aitken from yesterdays miniature "to touch the mind, to receive the mind, and to convey the mind". The less explanation the better. This must be experienced to be appreciated.
Now as a lay practitioner, my challenges are great. Be in the culture but don't take it in. Try not to act from my conditioning when most around me are operating from their conditioning. This can brake the cycle of conditioning. It is my moment to moment practice. Brake the cycle of conditioning and give intimacy a chance.

Any error or confusion created by my commentary on Miniatures of a Zen Master
is solely a reflection of my own delusion and ignorance. Any merit
generated by this activity is solely the result of Aitken Roshi's clear
teaching and is dedicated to all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas throughout
space and time.

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