The Buddha came to be represented as having “three bodies”:
Dharmakaya – the source of enlightenment and happiness.
Sambhogakaya – the body of bliss or enlightenment.
Nirmanakaya – the historical embodiment of the Buddha.
When he was about to pass away, the Buddha told his disciples, “Dear friends, my physical body will not be here tomorrow, but my teaching body (Dharmakaya) will always be with you. Consider it to be the teacher who never leaves you. Be islands unto yourselves, take refuge in the Dharma. Use the Dharma as your lamp, your island.”
The original meaning of Dharmakaya, the way to realize understanding and love.
Emptiness always means empty of something. A cup is empty of water. A bowl is empty of soup. We are empty of a separate, independent self.
Emptiness does not mean nonexistence. It means interdependent co-arising, impermanence, and non-self. Emptiness is the middle way between existence and nonexistence.
Everyone we cherish will someday, get sick and die. If we do not practice the mediation on emptiness, when it happens, we will be overwhelmed.
Signlessness or animitta:
The second door of liberation is signlessness. “Sign” means an appearance or the object of our perception.
Signs are instruments for our use, but they are not absolute truth, and they can mislead us. Wherever there is a sign, there is deception, illusion. Appearances can deceive.
If you see the signlessness of signs, you see the Tathagata. Tathagata means the wonderous nature of reality.
Everything manifests by means of signs.
Life span is the period of time between our birth and our death. We think we are alive for a specific period of time that has a beginning and an end. But when we look deeply, we see that we have never been born and we will never die. And our fear dissolves. With mindfulness, concentration, and the Three Dharma Seals, we can unlock the door of Liberation called signlessness and obtain the greatest relief.
Aimlessness or apranihita:
The Third Door of Liberation is aimlessness. There is nothing to do, nothing to realize. The purpose of a rose is to be a rose. Your purpose is to be yourself.
Be yourself. Life is precious as it is. Just being in the moment in this place is the deepest practice of meditation.
According to the Heart Sutra there is “nothing to attain.”
Aimlessness and Nirvana are one.
Present Moment, Wonderful Moment
Waking up this morning, I smile
Twenty-four brand new hours are before me.
I vow to live freely in each moment
and to look at all beings with the eyes of love.
-Thich Nhat Hanh
These twenty-four hours are a precious gift, a gift we can only realize when we have opened the Third Door of Liberation.
The practice of aimlessness, is the practice of freedom.
According to Buddhism there are two kinds of truth: Relative Truth and Absolute Truth. We recognize the presence of happiness and the presence of suffering. One day we realize that suffering and happiness are “not two.”
Where ever there is joy there is suffering.
Suffering and joy are not two.
Our life is the path
We enter the path of practice through the door of knowledge
All conditioned things are impermanent. They are phenomena, subject to birth and death.
In the Discourse on the Turning of the Wheel of Dharma the Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths of suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the path. In the Heart Sutra, Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara tell us there is no suffering, no cause of suffering, no cessation of suffering, and no path. Is this a contradiction? No. The Buddha is speaking in terms of relative truth and Avlakiteshvara is teaching in terms of absolute truth.
The Buddha recommends that we recite the Five Remembrances every day:
I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.
I am of the nature to have ill-health. There is no way to escape having ill-health.
All things dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.
My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground on which I stand.
When we look at the ocean, we see that each wave has a beginning and an end.
If we look deeply, we can see a wave is made of water.
While living the life of a wave, it also lives the life of water. When a wave touches her true nature, which is water, all her complexes will cease, and she will transcend birth and death.
Liberation is the ability to go from the world of signs to the world of true nature.
What is essential is to be our best while we are here.
The practice of Right Concentration is to cultivate a mind that is one-pointed. There are two kinds of concentration, active and selective. In active concentration, the mind dwells on whatever is happening in the present moment, even as it changes. The following poem by a Buddhist monk, Huong Hai illustrates active concentration.
The wind whistles in the bamboo
And the bamboo dances.
When the wind stops,
The bamboo grows still.
A silver bird
flies over the autumn lake.
When it has passed,
The lake’s surface does not try
To hold onto the image of the bird.
When we practice active concentration, we welcome whatever comes along. We don’t think about it or long for anything else. We just dwell in the present moment with our whole being. Whatever comes, comes. When the object of our concentration passed our mind remains clear.
When we practice selective concentration, we choose one object and hold onto it. During sitting or walking mediation our attention is focused on our object.
We concentrate to make ourselves deeply present
Right concentration leads to happiness, and it also leads to Right Action
Samadhi means concentration. To practice samadhi is to live deeply in each moment.
Mindfulness brings about concentration
Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration lift us above he realms of sensual pleasure and craving, and we find ourselves lighter and happier.
There are nine levels of meditative concentration. The first four are the Four Dhyanas. They are on the form realm. The next five levels belong to the formless realm.
After the fourth dhyana the meditator enters into a deeper experience of concentration.
The object of the fifth level of concentration is limitless space. According the Buddha’s teaching, nothing has a separate self.
The object of the sixth level of concentration is limitless consciousness.
The object of the seventh level of concentration is nothingness.
Level eight is neither perception nor non perception
Level nine is cessation. Cessation from ignorance in our feelings. From this level is born insight. When someone practices well, the ninth level of concentration shines a light on the reality of things and transforms ignorance.
The Buddha taught many concentration practices. To practice the Concentration on Impermanence, every time you see your beloved see her as impermanent and do your best to make her happy today. The insight into impermanence keeps you from getting caught up in the suffering and craving, attachment, and despair. See and listen to everything with this insight.
According to the Lotus Sutra, we have to live in the historical and ultimate dimensions of reality at the same time. We have to live deeply our life as a wave so we can touch the substance of water in us. We walk, look, breathe, and eat in a way that we touch the absolute dimension of reality. We transcend birth and death and the fears of being and nonbeing, one and many.
Live every moment of your life deeply, and while walking, eating, drinking, and looking at the morning star, you touch the ultimate dimension.
Right diligence or right effort is the kind of energy that helps us realize the Noble Eightfold Path. Four practices usually associated with right diligence:
Preventing unwholesome seeds in our store consciousness from arising
Helping unwholesome seeds that have arisen return to our store consciousness
Finding ways to water wholesome seeds in our store consciousness that have not yet arisen
Nourishing the wholesome seeds that have already arisen.
Unwholesome means not conducive to the path. The wholesome seeds of happiness, love, loyalty, and reconciliation need watering every day.
According to Buddhist psychology, our consciousness is divided into eight parts, including mind consciousness and store consciousness. Store consciousness is described as a field in which every kind of seed can be planted. Seeds of suffering, sorrow, fear, and anger, and seeds of happiness and hope. When these seeds sprout, they manifest in our mind consciousness and when they do, they become stronger.
We need to know our physical and psychological limits. We shouldn’t force ourselves to do ascetic practices or lose ourselves in sensual pleasures. Right Diligence lies in the Middle Way between the extremes of austerity and sensual indulgence. Joy and ease are two factors that are at the heart of Right Diligence.
The following gatha can give us energy to live the day well:
Waking up this morning I smile
24 brand new hours are before me
I vow to live fully in each moment
and look to all beings with eyes of compassion.
The practice of mindful living should be joyful and pleasant. If you breathe in and out and feel joy and peace, that is right diligence.
Right Action means Right Action of the body. It is the practice of touching love and preventing harm, the practice of non-violence toward ourselves and others. The Basis of Right Action is to do everything in mindfulness.
Right Action is closely linked with four of the five mindfulness trainings:
The first mindfulness training is about the reference of life
The second mindfulness training is about generosity
The third mindfulness training is about sexual responsibility
The fifth mindfulness training encourages mindful eating, drinking, and consuming
Right action is based on Right View, Right Thinking, and Right Speech, and is very much linked to Right Livelihood. The basis of Right Action is Right Mindfulness.
The classical explanation of Right Speech is 1) Speaking truthfully. 2) Not speaking with a forked tongue. 3) Not speaking cruelly.
Right Speech is based on Right Thinking.
Deep listening is at the foundation of Right Speech
Compassionate listening brings about healing
When communication is cut off we suffer
The Bodhisattva Kwan Yin is the one who hears the cries of the world
If you really love someone, train yourself to be a good listener
You must use loving speech
You need to practice more walking meditation, more mindful breathing, more sitting meditation in order to restore your capacity for compassionate listening
When you begin to understand the suffering of the other person compassion will arise in you. Compassion is the only energy that can help us connect with another person. The person who has no compassion in him can never be happy
Writing is a deep practice
Silence is a time for looking deeply. There are times when silence is truth and that is called “thundering silence”
Words and thought can kill. We cannot support acts of killing in our thinking or in our speech. If you have a job in which telling the truth is impossible, you may have to change jobs. If you have a job that allows you to speak truth, be grateful. To practice social justice and non-exploitation, we have to use right speech
The Fourth Mindfulness Training is training oneself to listen with compassion
May my words be as beautiful as gems, as lovely as flowers
I am committed to cultivating loving speech and deep listening
Words can create happiness or suffering
I am determined to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy, and hope
I will not spread news that I do not know to be certain and I will not criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure.
I am determined to make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.
During the time of Coronavirus I took the opportunity to attend an online Buddhist Seminar entitled : In the Footsteps of Thich Nhat Hanh. I consider Thich Nhat Hanh to be my guru. It was a five day summit, but since I was stuck at home I had plenty of time to attend. On the second day of the summit, at the end of the day, there was a short video that featured the writer bell hooks. Now bell hooks would be just about the last person in the world I would ever expect to encounter at a Buddhist seminar. Not there is any thing wrong with bell hooks. I like bell hooks. I know bell hooks. I’ve read several of her books and I have tremendous respect for her. I met her once in Philadelphia at a lecture she gave at the Free Library. I brought a book along with me for her to sign after the lecture, which she graciously did. When it came my turn I stood before her and smiled at her and told her that we shared the same name and that we both were from Kentucky. She liked that. She autographed my book with the following inscription: “To Loving Blackness.”
It was an evening I would not forget. Bell hooks is a woman with a fierce intellect and strong opinions and she is a woman who is full of rage. She would be the first person to admit that. So, it was not without a little bit of surprise to run across this video of her at the summit. In the video she describes her encounter with Thich Nhat Hanh. She described how she was a little apprehensive about meeting the zen master. She told him when she met him that she was filled with rage. He met that rage with loving kindness. He said that was OK. Hold onto your rage and use it for compost for your garden. Well, at moment, she had a little aha experience. And she was able to transform her anger, and that was the point of the video. Perfect!