The Freedom of the Heart and Mind 

Shared by Reni

  Stephen Batchelor introduces us to modern-day Buddhism in contemporary life. He published multiple books on Buddhism after he studied Tibetian, South Korean and European Buddhism he culminated his own way of Secular Buddhism. In his younger age he visited India where he was introduced to Tibetan Buddhism and he chose to take monastic ordination due to the strong personal connection to its fundamental ideas, later on he decided to move to South Korea, where he continued his studies in contemplative practices in Rinzai zen. 

     Stephen Batchelor, in his book, calls to mind the way of being in the construct of emptiness. Within the search of self, one can easily get confused by simply thinking “no-self” leads to a meaningful life. However, I think denying oneself takes away from everything that truly matters in this world. How can compassion, caring and universal love arise in someone’s heart without knowing the individual self? The very individual self that can recognize its shortcomings and take responsibility for its own existence while it’s harmoniously connected to the conscious universe.

       Understanding the dualistic nature of egoistic self where the mind creates conflicts, hatred, violence, divisions, beliefs and dogmas. The author states in his book: “The four ennobling truths become principal dogmas of the belief system known as “Buddhism”. The Buddha’s teachings lost its meaning once it was elevated into an unreachable moment for an everyday person without spiritual guidance.

      Buddha’s nature is attainable to everyone. Nevertheless, emptiness is a heartfelt personal moment. The Buddha found his own pathway and he encouraged us to find our own ways to reach the same central pathway. He was able to alleviate his own pain without any self destruction and find the way to authentic awakening. Emptiness is such an elusive word, it can mean freeing ourselves away from harmful negative attachments. I think emptiness is the infinite depth of oneself mirroring the universal consciousness. The freedom of the heart and mind can help us experience new life stories without the burden of preconceived notions and prejudice. 


Aaron led a discussion of thankfulness.

‘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.”

Omotenashi おもてなし

Shared by Kaz

Omotenashi has been part of Japanese culture for a long time. Omote means front, nashi means nothing. Omotenashi means from the bottom of the heart, sincere. Omotenashi is an important concept from the tea ceremony which is closely related to zen. The host who is serving tea and the guest are treating each other sincerely.

There are a couple of zen phrases closely related to Omotenashi.

Ichigo ichie (一期一会)is a famous zen phrase, literary means “one time, one meeting”. Often this phrase is translated to “Once in a lifetime”. Each moment is unrepeatable and special in its own right. Appreciate this moment and focus on this special moment.

Mukudoku (無功徳)Don’t expect any returns or rewards for doing something.

We can prepare, sit and talk at our zendo with Omotenashi.

Deepak shared Atithi Devo Bhava, a similar concept in Indian Hindu-Buddhist philosophy.


Oscar talked about empathy.

With the current state of the world and our country, I find myself feeling angry at myself and feeling useless and powerless for nothing being able to make any changes. Through meditation I found out that the difference I can do is to reduce hate in the world. But how do we do that? While meditating I told myself that through empathy I could achieve that. Meditation taught me that separation is the biggest illusion we tell ourselves as humans. Since we are raised and taught different cultures, religions, and politics, but we are all one species who are trying to strive through nature and the communities we build. Ultimately we all bleed red and we all share similar emotions.

breathe in – still alive, breathe out – let it go

Peter had sciatica nerve pain due to Herniated Discin in March 2020 when the COVID lockdown started. This was extremely painful for Peter.  He wanted to get treatment, but physical therapy and doctors were not immediately available due to the lockdown. He was frustrated and angry as nothing was helping his pain. His mind was full of negative feelings and thoughts. Then, he heard someone say meditation might help ease his pain. He would like to give it a try out of desperation. He read a book about meditation and learned the importance of breathing. When he breathes in, he can feel the pain and feel the relief when he breathes out.  Through meditation, Peter became mindful of his body’s doing and recognized the pain.  Breathe in – still alive, breathe out – let it go… 

Also, when he was in pain, his wife asked,” How are you doing?”  He initially felt, “Don’t you know I am in pain?” and felt anger. However, as he started to meditate and be mindful of his surroundings, he began to feel differently; his wife’s question was “love.”  Meditation helps Peter shift the state of MIND FULL of negative and stressful thoughts to MINDFULNESS which allows him to see things clearly with calmness and peace felt inside. 

The clinic office reopened in June, and Peter paid his first doctor visit since the onset of his sciatica problem.  He was given medical treatment from March through September.  His pain gradually eased off, and he started returning to his daily walking exercises. He meditates while walking.  He meditates while walking. Through mindfulness, Peter learns and practices living fully at every moment in the present. Both were saying hello to a stranger and slowing down paces to enjoy the beauty of nature (flowers, trees, hills, clouds, etc.), aware of their surroundings, giving him energy and joy.  

Peter recognizes Meditation cannot totally eliminate his pain and suffering. But meditation can help Peter alleviate his pain with calmness inside his mind and peace at heart. 

“Mindfulness does not regard pain as an enemy that needs to be suppressed. It does not want to throw the pain out. It knows the pain is a part of us.” —Thich Nhat Hanh, a renowned Buddhist Monk.