On New Year’s Eve, in many Buddhist temples, there is a ceremony of ringing the temple bell 108 times (Joya-no-kane). The bells are rung 108 times to symbolically represent the cleansing of 108 worldly imperfections or passions (defilements) from the year just ending.
Eihei Dogen, a Soto Zen priest, referred to these 108 defilements as 108 Dharma Gates which are viewed as opportunities to progress on the Path of spiritual maturity…..rather than only for purification.
Since we have our New Year’s zazenkai on this the first day of the new year, we changed up the tradition to focus on the Dharma Gates inherent in the 108 ringing of the bells….the positive toward which we strive.
Sitting in a camp fire type circle and using our big bowl, a student rang the bell with everyone else doing a sitting bow, and then scooted the bowl to the next student who rang the bowl, with pattern continuing until 108 strikes had been completed. While this was going on, Aaron would occasionally announce a Dharma Gate , which was the counter to a defilement…..kindness,gratitude, faithfulness, tolerance, respect, satisfaction, and ending with peace. It seemed a lovely experience.
The sky blue, the birds vocal, the air crisp, the sangha together. New Year’s Day at Hakone. Ichi-go Ichi-e
Author: Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, teacher, poet, peace activist, was known as the “father of mindfulness” and was a major influence on Western practices of Buddhism.
The meaning behind the title is that without mud, the beautiful lotus flower cannot grow. This is an analogy of life—without pain or suffering, there cannot be happiness.
If you haven’t suffered hunger you can’t appreciate having something to eat. If you haven’t gone through war, you don’t know the value of peace.
When we learn to acknowledge, embrace, and understand our suffering, we suffer much less.
Not only that, but we’re also able to go further and transform our suffering into understanding, compassion, and joy.
The suffering of the body includes pain, illness, and injury. Some of this suffering is unavoidable. The suffering of the mind is anxiety, jealousy, fear, anger.
Every kind of suffering manifests somewhere in the body and creates tension and stress.
An injured animal finds a quiet place and just lies down, doing nothing. She instinctively knows that stopping is the best way to get healed.
Man used to have this kind of wisdom but we lost touch with it. We don’t know how to rest. We rely on medication for relief from our physical pain.
We try to cover up our internal suffering with all kinds of consumption and distractions. We run away from the suffering.
TRANSFORMING SUFFERING INTO HAPPINESS:
1. STOP RUNNING FROM OURSELVES 2. MAKE PEACE WITH OUR SUFFERING 3. LET GO OF OUR COWS 4. DON’T RELEASE THE SECOND ARROW 5. NURTURE HAPPINESS EVERY DAY
1. STOP RUNNING
Come home to ourselves. Acknowledge our suffering. The way to understand is to listen to ourselves.
2. MAKE PEACE WITH OUR SUFFERING
Embrace suffering like a Mom with a crying baby. The suffering is trying to get your attention, and now you can take the opportunity to listen.
When we embrace our suffering it starts to heal. You can explore what kind of roots it has and what has been feeding your sorrow.
3. LET GO OF OUR COWS
Story of the Buddha and his monks encountering a farmer desperately looking for his lost cows: He had also lost his crop to an infestation of insects. He said to the Buddha, “I think I am going to kill myself. I have lost everything!” After the farmer had gone, the Buddha looked at his monks and smiled and said, “My dear friends, do you know that you are lucky, you do not have any cows to lose.”
What Thich Nhat meant by the word “cow,” is something that you think is essential for your happiness: a certain job, house, money, status, a relationship. But when you get it you’re still not happy, and you continue to suffer.
Ask yourself: is this “cow” really necessary for my well-being and happiness?
If we find out that it creates more anxiety and fear, then we will be able to find the strength to let it go.
4. DON’T RELEASE THE SECOND ARROW
There is a Buddhist teaching called The Arrow. It says if an arrow hits you, you will feel pain. The second arrow represents our reaction to the bad event. If we get carried away in fear, anger, and despair, we only magnify our pain. The question is whether you can avoid shooting the second arrow.
5. NURTURE HAPPINESS EVERY DAY
Practice letting go Practice mindful breathing Practice mindful walking Practice sitting meditation
Morning verse for happiness:
Waking up this morning I smile I have 24 hours to live. I vow to live them deeply and learn to look at beings around me with eyes of compassion
‘In this week where Americans are celebrating a holiday by gathering with friends and family for a meal and to express thankfulness I was reminded of a family tradition we haven’t observed in a while – going around the table and having each person share something for which they are grateful.
Today I want to express my gratitude for two things – my family and Hakone Zendo. My children, now in their teenage years, will soon be graduating from high school and leaving home. As we celebrated the holiday together this week, I recognized that our time together as a family of four is precious and will change in the coming years.
Hakone Zendo has been a very positive influence on my life and I am thankful for both the new and long-term students that join us each week. Prior to the pandemic, it was common for us to have a group of ten or less each week. Since the pandemic, we regularly have fifteen to twenty, with a healthy mix of existing students and new faces. The sharing we do each week is inspiring and makes me happy to be part of this community.”
Dan Tien Your Secret Energy Center by Christopher Markert
Dan Tien in Chinese is in the same location as it is described in Japanese, Hara. In his book, he talks about his own journey on finding the ancient Chinese knowledge about Dan-Tien. The ancient script describes it as “the best place in the body”, it also refers to it as One-Point.
“Taoist teachings reaching back four to five thousand years tell in great detail how to be in touch with the center of vitality and joy, and how to use it as a link with the cosmic power Chi.”
In his personal journal he recalls a pivotal moment.
“When I first explained all this to a friend yesterday, she asked if I had no ambitions or social conscience. Did I want to vegetate in my little world of navel contemplations? On the contrary, I said, I am now more aware than ever of other people’s feelings and needs, simply because I understand myself better. And my life has become more adventurous and colorful since I discovered Dan-Tien. Above all, I have learned to enjoy every minute. My life now has meaning, it makes sense, and I have access to the life force.” Their conversation ended with her strong disagreement and disbelief. “My answers were too simple, she said. A few years ago I had thought so myself. Even now I can hardly believe that life can be so simple, rewarding, and enjoyable.” I wondered about how I know that I have found my alignment within. In the chapter of Our Normal and Natural Condition he explains that “The quality of our life really depends on the quality of our feelings about ourselves and the world at any given moment. Our world looks unpleasant or ugly wherever we lose touch with our Dan-Tien. The same world can be full of love and sunshine when we are centered again.” He shares his ideas and meditation practices throughout the book, it is an insightful introduction to Dan-Tien.
Nick shared a poem called “November 3rd” by Miyazawa Kenji.
Neither yielding to rain nor yielding to wind yielding neither to snow nor to summer heat with a stout body like that without greed never getting angry always smiling quietly eating one and a half pieces of brown rice and bean paste and a bit of vegetables a day in everything not taking oneself into account looking listening understanding well and not forgetting living in the shadow of pine trees in a field in a small hut thatched with miscanthus if in the east there’s a sick child going and nursing him if in the west there is a tired mother going and for her carrying bundles of rice if in the south there’s someone dying going and saying you don’t have to be afraid if in the north there’s a quarrel or a lawsuit saying it’s not worth it stop it in a drought shedding tears in a cold summer pacing back and forth lost called a good-for-nothing by everyone neither praised nor thought a pain someone like that is what I want to be