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Buddhadharma : Fall 2007
buddhadharma| 65 |fall 2007 self-enclosed and keeps itself in place over aeons and aeons. The bodhisattva feels deep sadness that things are this way, just as a mother feels great sadness when her child goes through physical or psychologi- cal agony. The mother of the universe – as the bodhisattva of compassion is depicted iconographically – does not personalize this sadness. She has seen this phenom- enon of numberless beings caught in the web of their own creation for countless eons. She reaches out with her thousand arms to these beings and helps them in whatever way she can. But this sadness and the resultant compassion and will- ingness to help are universal rather than personal. We might understand how the deriva- tion of bi lends itself to the emotion of sadness a little better if we look at our experience in a meditation retreat. Dur- ing longer retreats especially, the space of personal experience opens up in a peri- odic upwelling of sadness. When looked at closely, this sadness may be the cul- mination of earlier emotions like anger, rage, frustration, and so on that bubble forth, particularly during the earlier phase of a long retreat. These layered emotions resurface as a manifestation of deeply suppressed intuitions that one’s life has not worked out the way one had wanted it to. But these emotions, after they manifest themselves quite vividly, also spend themselves out. What’s left is a generalized feeling-tone of sadness, which is personal and yet not personal. One feels sad for the turns one has missed in one’s own life through the workings of greed, hatred, and delusion. This par- ticular sadness is not regret and it is not quite sorrow as we generally experience sorrow. It’s something more subtle and finely attuned than sorrow or regret. Within this sadness one also recognizes a certain universal pattern – that one’s life is a microcosm of all human lives that have ever been lived. In recognizing one’s own samsaric feedback loop, one also recognizes how each and every person who has ever lived has been similarly caught up in the working of samsara. The feeling of sadness for the personal- yet-not-personal is understood as sadness for the fundamental nature of the human condition. One of the healthy outgrowths of this sadness is that one takes respon- sibility for all the mistakes one has made in one’s life rather than blaming them on Now available through the Buddhist Churches of America Bookstore http://stores.homestead. com/BCABookstore/ StoreFront.bok 510-809-1435 firstname.lastname@example.org CURRENTS OF CHANGE American Buddhist Women Speak Out on Jodo Shinshu Patricia Kanaya Usuki American Buddhist Women Speak Out on Jodo Shinshu Patricia Kanaya Usuki Our Daily (Rain or Shine) We bcast Zazen is meant for those who cannot easily commute to a sitting—perhaps due to health concerns, living in remote areas, taking care of kids and work—or anyone who might benefit. Now, by ‘tuning in’ to our 30 minute ‘Daily Zazen’ broadcast, all can join a Soto Zen ‘just sitting’ and Sangha. treeleafzen.blogspot.com Jundo Cohen, teacher someone else, or even blaming ourselves. Sadness is thus a process of growth and maturation. Sadness for those mistakes and a non- blaming acceptance of their costs provide the essential ingredients for further insights to develop. With sadness as a backdrop, one resolves to care diligently for one’s actions from now on, so that one does not again harm oneself or others. This care or watchful concern is not an overt or covert scheme of “self-improvement” but a deep insight that the samsaric web we are weaving through our thoughts and actions have karmic consequences that ripple out endlessly. As one cares for one’s own being in an authentic way, one also has the sense of somehow being of some assistance to the rest of creation. It may not be possible to precisely out- line the details of this assistance, but one has the general sense of helpfulness. The aspiration implicit in the first great vow of the Zen tradition, “All beings, one body, I vow to liberate,” somehow becomes alive in one’s caring for oneself. An upwell- ing of sadness toward one’s mistakes in life and the cumulative mistakes of all humanity helps serve as a backdrop to the arising of compassion. Our authentic experience evokes our authentic motiva- tion, like the first musical note struck on a string instrument. How the other notes follow becomes a matter of great and delicate care. Thus, a Mahayana understanding of bodhisattvahood would mean that authentic practice is forever bound up with this palpable sense of care and sad- ness – the dae ja, dae bi of the Morning Bell Chant. It is not about an ideological insistence on upholding the paradigm of the bodhisattva. The bodhisattva para- digm is a feeling-tone; the doctrine that accompanies it is merely there to explain or amplify. It has no significance without the feeling-tone of care and sadness. And yet there’s nothing neurotic, sentimental, or self-indulgent about this feeling-tone. It is grounded in an awareness that, just as one has come to a place of sadness and care in one’s own situation, it is possible for others to come to the same place of reckoning. If this reckoning is cultivated deeply, the boundaries between self and the other dissolve and will continue to dissolve when constant vigilance to care and sadness is maintained. This is the promise of practice.