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Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Appreciate Life

In sanga this past Sunday, we discussed hope, hopelessness, and appreciation. How are they related? Our reading was from Brad Werner's Hardcore Zen. The chapter we read from is entitled "If Only," and addresses all the energy and time we put into fantasizing how "If only I had..." (Fill in the blank with anything and everything from a perfect mate to loads of money to enlightenment)

We imagine "nirvana," or some perfect utopia, and as Brad notes, utopia doesn't exist in any way except as a notion, a concept. Where we are right now is our life, and if we are constantly looking for something else -- the truth, perfection, whatever -- we become ignorant and unappreciative of what is right here right now. And that could be this breath, this itch or twinge of pain! No one else has ever, will ever or can ever have just this whatever it is. How amazing! How miraculous! How overlooked!

We may have all sorts of ideas of how things should be, but reality will always be just as it is. And this suchness of reality is just about the only thing we can count on! Life will be as it is. And we can work to make things better in the world. In fact, we must do so. But we can do it from a place of apprecitation for how things is (so to speak) and not from some abstraction from life.

Sitting meditation, mindfulness, zazen, vipassana, all help us to appreciate our life by actually putting us in touch with our life. We can then see that this life is nirvana. This is the "Pure Land." And with an understanding of emptiness -- which is to say, the emptiness of self-need and self-absorbtion -- everything will be seen and appreciated as what it is: the unfolding, ephermeral, insubstantial flux and flow of life.

Another wonderful book I have been reading lately is Ken Jones' The New Social Face Of Buddhism: A Call to Action. If we take action from a place of "hope," entangled in our all too often righteous ideas about how things should be, we become dogmatic, attached to ideology, and then we forget the reality of all situations: the fact that we do not know.

As Jones notes, "We care passionately about the world, almost too much at times; this is understandable, as our very lives are at stake. But a deep and constantly refreshed detachment must lie at the core of any really passionate relationship. When this is forgotten, lost in the heat of caring, the relationship becomes greedy, possessive and materialistic; it becomes deluded, self-centered, and blind, and ultimately unhelpful." The insight into the essential insubstantiality of things helps us to see that everything is, as Suzuki Roshi noted, perfect, and there is still much to do.

Stopping, and looking -- the two aspects of meditation practice -- allows us to step out from the attachment to our hope and from the ignorance of what is right here right now. And from a deep sense of appreciation for life and all that arises moment by moment, breath by breath, we act authentically, which as Samu Sunim, the Korean Zen Master repeatedly points out, is action that is intimate, immediate, spontaneous and obvious.

.: posted by Poep Sa Frank Jude 10:34 AM


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