A Dharma Glimpse: Empty One’s Cup

This is a Dharma Glimpse that I originally presented on 11/24/19 as a participant in the Lay Ministry program of the Bright Dawn Center of Oneness Buddhism.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down to dinner at a local Indian restaurant with a couple of other Buddhist-minded folks from the Unitarian-Universalist congregation that we each participate in. I must admit that in the back of my head there was a bit of reservation present about eating at this particular restaurant as in the past I have had minimal if any contact with Indian cuisine, this likely being the first time I’ve actually eaten food of this variety. By the time I had eaten a few bites I had decided that I had found a new favorite as the restaurant offered heaping portions (I got 3 meals out of my order) and the food was absolutely delicious, being spiced to such an extent that even my own eyes were watering quite a bit, something that came as a surprise as I’m a big fan of spicy food!

Its not uncommon for us to walk into a restaurant for a meal with pre-conceived thoughts about how the food, the atmosphere and the experience may touch us. I feel that we can identify that this line of thinking doesn’t end here either as I’m sure we can all agree that if we were to evaluate any typical day that we could easily find ourselves approaching countless different day-to-day scenarios and occurrences with pre-conceived judgments based off of the ways we think things will appear or transpire. How often do we walk into a meeting thinking we know the outcome, meet a new person thinking we already know something significant about them or assume we know what someone else on the roadways can and can not see, expects or doesn’t expect? (I’m particularly guilty of this one!)

My mind goes to a common Zen parable-story of sorts. It has several different presentations but they all hit at the same point: A Zen student-hopeful once approached a teacher and asked to be accepted as a student, to be trained in the ways of Zen. The teacher took a cup and began to fill it for the student, filling it until the small cup began to overflow. Alarmed, the student shouted “Stop!”. “Your mind is like this teacup, overflowing, come back when you have emptied it” the teacher responded.

May we each take this lesson to heart by placing our pre-conceived thoughts judgements to the side. May we experience daily life with open-eyes, as a fresh, clean cup.

Thank you.

Clear Glass Mug

Photo by freestocks.org from Pexels

A Dharma Glimpse: Living in the Now

This is a Dharma Glimpse that I originally presented on 11/3/19 as a participant in the Lay Ministry program of the Bright Dawn Center of Oneness Buddhism

There is an old saying: “Take a picture, it will last longer”. This phrase is often tossed around when one person is gazing at something or someone else continuously, perhaps in a manner which may be perceived as rude or disrespectful. “Take a picture, it will last longer”. But at what possible cost does this approach come?

At the time I am writing this it is Halloween and I am preparing to head back out to work to drive the students I transport to and from school each day. No doubt they will all be looking for different opportunities to take pictures whether they are at a party, trick or treating or some other event – and the same could be said about most people in this contemporary day of social media where it could be suggested that a large amount of people wish to either share or memorialize virtually every aspect of their lives. Social media has done wonderful things for society and proves to be a great way to back up photos, videos and other digital forms of events and memories. Unfortunately, it can easily be said that far too often many of us may live for the the act of creating that media-sharing opportunity to the extent that we dull the experience itself – whatever that action or event may be.

As I look back at old social media posts or other old photos from past years I find that while many do allow me to relish in memories of evemts and old friends of the seemingly distant past there are many others that I recall very little of if at all. Former classmates, old participants in the cadet program I was enrolled in throughout high school, various church members I never knew well – many of these appear to be people that I wouldn’t have immediately recognized if I had met them on the street. This discovery leads me to believe that while I do have some “physical” evidence of the event, I did not consciously live the event to its fullest extent or level of participation. Rather, I was likely more fixated upon the ability to relive these instances in the future or the social media status I may gain from a great post. How frequently can it be said that we are trying to relive the past or live for a particular projected future? What are we missing out on in life?

While the various forms of media are wonderful innovations and have contributed to the progress of humanity at an immeasurable level, they are no substitute for the “real” experience of mindfully living in the present moment. This Halloween I won’t be making a fancy status showing off movies I’m watching or spooky food I may be eating. Rather than being occupied with how I want to remember this day or how others may perceive my activities socially, I will simply enjoy the holiday by living in the present moment and work on shifting my mind to this as a perspective to try to hold throughout each day.

Thank you

Photo from Flickr

A Dharma Glimpse: Life and Death – Neither Beginning nor End

This is a Dharma Glimpse that I originally presented on 9/15/19 as a participant in the Lay Ministry program of the Bright Dawn Center of Oneness Buddhism

I was recently on an outing with a friend visiting the grounds of a local Vietnamese Zen Temple located in Frederick, MD. The Temple grounds are located inside a wooded area and feature many large, traditional statues of different Buddhas and Bodhissatvas, as well as other structures that stand alongside the various paths that run through the campus. While observing some of the statues we suddenly heard a subtle rustling in the trees above us, a noise which ended up being a large wasp tackling a large cicada to the ground next to us, killing it.

While animals and insects in the wild frequently hunt and kill as a means of nourishment, the act of killing has a much more complicated point of view when it comes to humanity. “Do not kill” is a common guideline for right, moral living. It is the “law of the land” in virtually all nations, it is the sixth commandment of Abrahamic religions and it is the first precept of Buddhism. From the most strictest of interpretations, this is an impossibility to completely observe – we can go our whole lives without intentionally harming another mammal, living vegan and saving each insect that we may happen to notice enter our dwellings: We will still almost certainly harm other insects or animals in one way or another. Yet, we can all certainly agree that this is still a right and moral observance, one that helps us foster a greater sense of reverence for life around us. But what about once a form of that life has ended?

As I looked to the insect who had fallen prey to the attack of its predator, I couldn’t help but ponder the new state in life that this insect had just entered: death. As a culture, we so frequently add a layer of social stigma to death: perhaps seeing it as the end of the road, the finale or a “dead end”, the erasure of all that ever was of us or someone or something else. But does a parent’s affect on the world cease when they expire? Or the contributions of a teacher to their students? And what of the remains of these individuals?

From a certain perspective – in all life, we can see the entire stream of life itself from the beginning of time. All life that has ever interacted with any other life will continue on in that life and so on and so forth. As for the physical remains, the scientific law of conservation of matter goes: “Matter cannot be created or destroyed”; The physical remains of the deceased will simply continue on in the world in some other form. Life (or more accurately birth) need not be viewed as the beginning and death need not be viewed as the end. Rather, they are merely stages along this constant cycle of life and death that we are constantly walking around. Let us bear this thought going forward in our recognition of all of life in its various forms and stages around us, recognizing the oneness of it all.

May all beings be happy and at peace.

Image from Flickr