Sunday, November 20, 2005

That's not Buddhism

When I revisited Japan last year, I went to a temple called Eihei-ji (see my Web site,, for photos). It's one of two head temples of a Zen Buddhist denomination called Soto-shu, which was brought to Japan from China in the 13th century by a man named Dogen Zenji. Above is a photo I took at Eihei-ji.
The key practice of Soto-shu Zen is called zazen, which consists of sitting on a cushion (usually in the full lotus or half-lotus position, if you can manage it) and being mindful of thoughts as they arise, and then letting them go without dwelling on them. The idea is to be present in THIS VERY MOMENT, not the one that just passed or the one that follows. Sounds easy. It's not. Try it sometime.
Anyway, I'm oversimplifying what zazen is about, and I'm not using just the right words to describe it. But zazen isn't the point of this entry.
At Eihei-ji, I saw a wonderful quotation posted on a wall, a quotation that thoroughly cut through all the many layers of nonsense in which we usually wrap ourselves and got right to the essence of life.
Paraphrased, it goes like this:

Regretting the fact that you likely won't have a long life isn't Buddhism. Giving thanks for a long life isn't Buddhism, either.
Buddhism is living in the moment and making the most of the life you have.

What more is there to say?


PA said...

That reminded me. When I went to Eiheiji I bought a little collection of postcards with quotes on them. That quote was on there too.
I have one on my wall:
Illumination from Our Feet
Arranging our shoes neatly, we bring harmony to our minds.
When our minds are harmonious, we arrange shoes neatly.
If we arrange shoes neatly when we take them off, our minds won't be disturbed when we put them on.
If someone leaves shoes in disarray, let us silently set them in order.
Such an act will surely bring harmony to the minds of people around the world.

Green said...

I don't have a religion. But my father as an eldest son keeps "Butsudan" at home.
So somehow Buddhism is aroud me. And I am VERY aware of this "living in the moment and making the most of the life you have." , specially after being in hospital about 3 years ago. When I saw a girl who entered the room at hospital with one simple marguerite flower on her hair, something hit me. This realization made me cry. It simbolized something....something very simple.

Michael said...

Hello Greensleeves,

The hardest thing in the world for me is living in the moment, and making the best of circumstances. Your story about the girl with the flower in her hair is beautiful. It seems that children often are a lot better at living than adults.

Daniel said...

That is great although I can see the bit about making the most of life could turn our NOW into our NEXT.

Michael said...

Speaking for myself, I'm trying not to care much about what has yet to happen.