I posted this perhaps a year ago; but due to the stressful times we now face I thought I would share it again.
of sleep I lie in bed
blowing a gentle breeze across my body
I kick off
the covers and stretch
I clear my
mind from monkey dreams
to the quietness of the house
I have been
a Buddhist practitioner since the late 1970’s when I first read The Three
Pillars of ZEN by Roshi Philip Kapleau.
that time I have read and studied numerous books by numerous authors on
Buddhism, and particularly Zen. I
have also attended a Zen Sanghi and practiced with a Buddhist community; but I
find this type of practice unrewarding and particularly contrary to my needs
and my feelings of what Buddhism is about.
formal Buddhist training is elitist and probably drives away many westerners
who might otherwise benefit and desire to live the Buddhist experience without
the commitment to a ritualistic practice of religious nature.
practice in No Bullshit Buddhism. To
me, Buddhism, and particularly Zen, should be practiced at its most basic level. The practice need not be about teachers, or
koans; not about robes, bells, icons or timed meditation.
of meditation the Buddha found enlightenment (or realization) when he saw a
beautiful young girl, was refreshed by cool water and tasted a bowl of
rice. It is that simple. The Buddha realized that contentment can come
from stopping our search and simply focusing on beautiful and satisfying things
around us at the present moment.
I feel that
the Buddha achieved enlightenment without teachers and community or adopting
someone else’s ideas and values. The
Buddha is important only for sharing his realization that to truly live we must
be conscious of the moment. We each
have a Buddha nature and by starting from the Buddha’s enlightenment we each
have the ability to seek our own way.
And there is no One Way.
In my No Bullshit Buddhism the role of
meditation is not to stress myself in a painful meditation marathon. I do not believe that the Buddha was awaken
because he spent hours in painful meditation; he was awakened because he became
suddenly aware of the beauty of the moment. However, meditation is a necessary practice
to discipline our mind to more fully appreciate the NOW.
writers and teachers say that you should not seek an outcome in the practice of
zazen (meditation.) This
flies in the face of western thinking and calls for that leap of faith that I
refuse to make.
In my No Bullshit Zen I find a quiet, comfortable
and familiar location. I seat myself on
a zafu; but a pillow, bench or chair would do – comfort being the object. I place my right hand in my left, touching my
thumbs, bringing both the right and left sides of my brain into
equilibrium. Some texts recommend
counting your breaths, but I prefer to gradually slow my breathing while
visualizing the air entering my nose and filling my lungs then exiting. The object is to empty my mind of all
thoughts. If my mind wanders I bring it
back to empty. I sit until it becomes
uncomfortable; then come back to the present calmly and gradually. As I have practice over time the length of my
meditation has naturally increase.
can lower your blood pressure; it can calm you in stressful situations; and
eventually it will allow you to conquer your monkey mind and enable you to more
completely focus on the NOW without distracting thoughts. These are the goals of my zazen practice.
In the Shambhala
Sun article Essential Teachings of
Thich Nhat Han - Beyond Words, he
states, “Zen doesn’t travel along a path of learning through writing and words;
it relies on direct transmission between teacher and student.”
This may be
cutting off the head of the Buddha, but I could not object more. I read and enjoy many Buddhist books and
periodicals and therefore have am insight from numerous different perspectives;
but I take nothing on faith and follow no one else’s path. A teaching or account must make sense to me
before I adopt it.
At the most
basic, The Four Noble Truths attempts to explain the cause of our discontent
and the Eightfold Path offers a guide to live by.
There are as
many paths to living with Buddhist values as there are peopled. I prefer No Bullshit Buddhism because:
I do not
feel the Buddha intended his teachings to come at a price.
I do not
feel the Buddha intended the path of the Buddhist way to be difficult.
I do not
feel the Buddha intended teachers and Sanghis to set themselves as the only
I do not
feel the Buddha intended enlightenment to be sought; but for contentment to be
I have never
felt more alive that the moment I released my grip on the wing strut and
stepped off the wheel of a small airplane becoming unattached to the earth; or
in the stern of a canoe rocketing down a mile of rapids on the Allagash River
in Maine; or during the erotic throws of a sexual encounter with a partner
responding with abandonment. These
moments far outweigh the experience of the almost zombie state of walking
In our mundane
times we should not fail to stop and smell the roses and contemplate the beauty
of the time and place; but life experience and reward goes far beyond
It is my
belief, with the exception of monastic training, that the Buddha intended his
teachings be simple, to help everyday people in everyday life to understand
that hardship, reward, elation, monotony and finally death is a natural part of
our existence; and that by living consciously in every moment we live this
short life more fully.
I am well
into my seventies, and at this point in my life impermanence is real. All people in their younger days understand
that someday they will die, that time will erode the mountains and that at some
point in the future the sun will turn into a red dwarf and the oceans will
evaporate; and even perhaps in the far distant future the expansion of the
universe will slow, stop and finally reverse shrinking into a massive black
hole where time and space do not exist; but the realization of impermanence
does not actually register until we are faced with the experience in our
helps me accept that death is the final obligation I owe to nature; but in the
meantime life is to be lived fully by being unrestrained by concepts and being
conscious in the NOW.
For what it
is worth this is my No Bullshit Buddhism.