Monday, October 10, 2011

The Words Belong To It.

I have often been asked by students when I was going to teach them something. They are seeking something new, fresh and original. When I explain that no such thing exists they become confused and sometime even defensive.

I don't lay claim to the teachings I speak or write as "mine" because they are a result of years of studying the the teachings of ancient masters, the sutras, teachers I have had and my own experiences. And I can find no line the clearly separates them from each other.

Whether I quote something word for word or if I rearrange the words in my own thoughts, none of the words or thoughts belong to anyone. They are all a result of teachings and experiences, a result of Buddha Nature and Buddha Nature belongs to no one but to everything. Who speaks the words doesn't really matter, Buddhadharma, Dogen Zenji, or even the Buddha himself because the words belong to us all. We are all stream and within this stream there is not one drop of water that is separate from another drop of water.

They may be called Teachers and Masters but the true teacher or master doesn't see himself or herself in that way. The true teacher of the way doesn't teach but rather helps the student to build within themselves the tools necessary to answer the questions they themselves are asking.

There is a joy and synergy in the simple beauty in arriving at a deeper understanding of nature around you, because this is our own true nature, it is Buddha Nature and the words belong to it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The 100 foot pole.

I don't particularly care to give Dharma talks. I find that the truth one finds in silence to be truer than any words that can be spoken. I had often thought that it better for one to teach by example but for many our examples are misunderstood. But how do we explain truth in words? Truth is just some idea in our mind not something that we can grasp hold of. In this sense there is no truth.

But still we want to know what truth is. So we try to explain in words and by doing so there is no end to the discussion. Soon we may realize that there is nothing we can say that will explain truth. In essence all off our words fall short, they become vulgar and seem only to hide that which truly exists. So what can we say or do to explain truth? Nothing!

Master Sekiso said, "You are at the top of a 100 foot pole. How will you make a step further? This would seem an impossible feat, for if one would take a step forward one would surly die. Nor can we step back. This seems to be an impossible place with nowhere to return to and nowhere to go.

We many become comfortable on top of the 100 foot pole, thinking that we can see everything so much clearer, and that now we understand truth, we may even thank this is enlightenment. But it is not enlightenment. For what is there to understand? And what is there to see? As the impossibility of our situation returns we may start to contemplate life and after we use all the words we can find to verify life we find there is really nothing that explains it. Like truth the only answers for life are found in silence.

Standing on top of the 100 foot pole we will experience this silence. But the experience may go unnoticed or be short lived because of our leaning minds. So how can we know truth? We have to take one step forward. We have step into the silence, we have to fall from the pole. How can anyone take such a step? We may start to contemplate death, only to find, like truth and life, there are no words that can give death true meaning. We find only that truth, life and death are nothing in particular. Just the thusness of what is. With this realization stepping off the 100 foot pole becomes less of an impossibility and more of a necessity.

Mumon commented on the 100 foot pole. He said "Should there be any who is able to step forward from the top of the 100 foot pole and hurl one’s whole body into the entire universe, this person may call oneself a Buddha. Nevertheless, how can one step forward from the top of the 100 foot pole? Know thyself!

Should one be content and settle on top of the 100,000 foot pole, One will harm the third eye, And will even misread the marks on the scale. Should one throw oneself and be able to renounce one’s life, Like one blind person leading all other blind persons, One will be in absolute freedom (unattached from the eyes)".

Friday, July 29, 2011

Doing Good Works

In Buddhism one does not become enlightened by doing good works as in Christianity one is not saved by doing good works. Salvation and Enlightenment are free to all those who seek. We are already Buddha's and salvation is a free gift from God.

Spiritual Practice and love and compassion do not earn us liberation nor salvation. Rather they are the fruits of our liberation and salvation.

This doesn't mean that human effort is irrelevant to the spiritual life. Even though our efforts cannot help us earn or achieve salvation or enlightenment, they might help us open to the realization of our inherent enlightenment or acceptance of God's free offer of salvation.

Final thought. Embrace one another. Before we were Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, Taoist or anything else, we were human and still are.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Fathers Day, A Day of Reflection and the Celebration of Children

Fathers Day for me has always been a day of reflection. Am I doing all I can for my children? Do they have all they need? Are they learning well? Are they happy? Then I hear the laughter echoing throughout the house, what a beautiful sound. The years are passing by and soon they will be on their own. Will they be ok? Is there something that I'm not doing? Then I hear a little arguement break out and in a couple minutes they are all playing again like nothing ever happened. We could all learn something from them.

Being a dad has always been difficult, I can only imagine what my dad went through raising me, but in today's world it is even more so. How do I protect them from this world and still allow them to a part of it? What will their world be like? Will they be ok after I am gone? The questions never seem to end. If only there where a book that would give us all the answers. Well there are many teaching that has helped me to understand my roll as a dad.

In the Bible in Luke 18: 16-17 "But Jesus called them unto him, saying, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for to such belongeth the kingdom of God. 17. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not reveive the kingdom of God as a litttle child, he shall in no wise enter therein.

To me this is saying,don't forbid them to go but also don't force anything on your children whether it be Jesus, Buddha or anything. The kingdom already belongs to them. If they are allowed they will find what is theirs, when they do, forbid them not to go and if we pay attention we ourselves will find the Heaven we lost so long ago. We raise our children, in return they teach us.

Many people, when they think of the Buddha they think of a man who abandoned his family on the day of his only child's birth—what kind of father would do such a thing? How can so many people follow the teaching of such a man? The Buddha renounced fatherhood but this represented his profound conviction that a lasting, unconditioned happiness could be found—and in leaving behind his family, the fetters on his emotional and spiritual life, he could ultimately give back to them the possibility of the same deathless happiness he would find for himself.

"When Rahula (his son) was seven years old, he became his father's disciple and began his training as a monk. In a discourse that has come to be known as the "Rahula Sutta" (Majjhima Nikaya 61), the Buddha instructed his young son with the seeds of some of his most important teachings. He started out by stressing the magnitude of being truthful—implying that if Rahula wanted to find the truth, he would first have to be truthful to himself. He then talked about using one's actions as a mirror. Before you do anything, he told Rahula, ask yourself: Is what I intend to do here skillful or unskillful? Will it lead to well-being or harm?If it looks harmful, don't do it. If it looks okay, go ahead and give it a try. While doing it, though, ask the same questions. If it turns out that it's causing harm, stop. If not, continue with it. Then after you've done it, ask the same questions—Did it bring about well-being or harm? If you see that what originally looked okay actually ended up being harmful, talk it over with someone else on the path and resolve never to make that mistake again. But if, as the Buddha put it, "on reflection [of a bodily, verbal, or mental action], you know that it did not lead to was a skillful action with pleasant consequences, pleasant results, then you should stay mentally refreshed and joyful, training day and night in skillful mental qualities." (form an article by: Mary Talbot)

What I have learned from Buddhism and the teachings of Jesus is not to look at these children as mine, they are not my possessions but rather they are the children that live in the same house as I. They have been put in my care for a very short time. In that time it is my responsibility to give them what they need to go into the world, find happiness and peace. I can only give them the tools I can't force it upon them, I can only help them along their "own path" and their path will not be exactly the same as my path because I'm teaching them to think for themselves. My daughter studies the teaching of Buddha and meditates with me, she also loves going to Church and the teachings of Jesus. My oldest son studies only Buddhism but is also coming to a deeper understanding of the true teachings of Jesus as he hears me talking with my daughter. My youngest son has found a profound truth in catching bugs, watching them and turning them lose. And I forbid them not to go.

Trying to prepare our children for a world that we know nothing about is an impossible task. I often think of this quote by Osho."You have to be grateful to existence that it has chosen you to be a passage for a few beautiful children. But you are not to interfere in their growth, in their potential. You are not to impose yourself upon them. They are not going to live in the same times, they are not going to face the same problems. They will be part of another world. Don´t prepare them for this world, this society, this time, because then you will be creating troubles for them. They will find themselves unfit, unqualified."

I am grateful to existence for the opportunity to share my life with these three beautiful children and I am grateful to be a part of so many other children's lives because of my work. To me the celebration of Fathers Day is a celebration of children. Its easy to cling to our children. It's hard to let go. For them to find their own path we must let go, as with everything we must let go. For their peac and for our own.

May all children find true happiness and peace in this life time. May they become teachers of unity and unconditional love to a world torn apart by the delusions of division. May they be the candles that light the way for many. May we each find the courage to let them go and the strength to always be here when they need us.

Happy Fathers Day

Jizo Hodo

Saturday, June 11, 2011

In Memory of Mr. Carniello and the questions that changed my life.

When I was growing up in Southern CA, my dad would always go to a little Italian store called Carniello's Market. I remember that store, the squiky screen door, the smells of fresh bread, Italian sasuage and cheese, the old wood floor and the hollow sound it made as you walked across it, the counter top so tall that I could hardly reach to top, the very big cash register but most of all I remember Mr.Carniello. He was an older gentleman who spoke broken English which for me was sometimes hard to understand but every time I visited the store Mr. Carniello would asked me, have you been a good boy, are you minding your mama and papa, are you being good to your vicino's (neighbors). I would always answer yes, I'm trying, he would smile real big, rub my head and give me a piece of candy and I would thank him.

Mr. Carniello pasted away when I was 8 or 9 and I remember how empty the store felt without him there. His sons took over and they left a bowl of candy on the counter for the kids of the neighborhood that would still come in. I remember standing in front of that bowl of candy looking up at it and asking myself, have I been a good boy, am I minding my mom and dad, am I being good to my neighbor's, and if I could answer yes I would take a piece of candy.

Today I am 51 and I often think of Mr. Carniello and those three questions. But the hole point to this is, He gave me candy. Such a seemingly little thing but for almost a half century after his passing, I still think of him often. I wonder if he knew the impact he would have on the lives he touched or if he just loved everyone for the sake of love.

For most of us its hard to imagine that a warm smile, a pat on the head, a piece of candy and three simple questions could have such an impact on a life but it did mine. Even in the darkest part of my life I would think back and hear those words. They would take me back to a more innocent time in my life were I was field with peace and happiness. It took a while for me climb out of the pit I had dug for myself, to realize I didn't have to suffer or cause pain. I just had to answer three questions. Am I being a good man, Am I taking care of my mom and dad, Am I doing good for my neighbors. When I could answer yes to all, I found the peace and happiness that I had lost so many year before.

It doesn't take much to touch a life as long as it comes from your heart. A warm smile, a little conversation, a pat on the head and maybe a piece of candy here and there. It wont fix all the worlds problems, but it will change lives, it changed mine. And who among us isn't capable of such a simple act?

"Have you been a good boy? Are you minding your mama and papa? Are you being good to your vicino's?"

Yes Mr. Carniello, I'm still trying. Thank you.

Blessings to all


Monday, May 2, 2011


I hesitate to post this as I am sure that many will find it to be offensive because they misunderstand what I am trying to say . But here it goes anyway.

9/11/2001 is a day that none of us will ever forget. I remember exactly where I was standing and what I was doing in that moment I heard what was happening to our country. My heart ached for those that lost their lives that day and still today I pray for those who suffered the lose of family and friends on that horrific day. It seems that from that moment everyday has been filed with scenes of death. From New York to Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and now Libya. The scenes of destruction and death envelope the news and are engraved upon my mind.

Yesterday the news that so many had been waiting for (me included) finally came. Osama Bin Laden was dead. On the news it showed America in celebration, basking in revenge and ecstatic over our victory. The tears that came to my eyes wasn't for a man that caused so much suffering, it was for a man that will never know true peace, it was for our country believing that somehow we had won a victory and for a world that even in this day and age hasn't figured out how to live together in peace. It was for the thousands that have died because of this war. Sir Chinmoy wrote "The body's victory Is often The soul's tremendous loss. The soul's victory Is always The body's amazing progress". I fear that while today we celebrate victory tomorrow we will grieve in defeat because Victory and defeat are interwoven and cannot be separated. We have to learn to go beyond them. Sir Chinmoy also wrote "The victory of human love is confusing. The victory of divine love is illumining. The victory of supreme love is fulfilling. It is this supreme love that leads us from hate and war to compassion and love, it is this supreme love that leads us to grieve the death of our enemy not because they were our enemy but because we failed to make them our brothers.

William Shakespeare wrote "This miserable age. What stratagems, how fell, how butcherly, Erroneous, mutinous, and unnatural, This deadly quarrel daily doth beget ! There is no sure foundation set on blood, No certain life achieved by other's death". When I heard the news of Osama's death I thought of the movie where the sorcerer cut of the dragons head and the dragon grew 7 more and another movie where the young sorcerer made friends with the dragon and together they defeated evil. If only it were so easy.

I know that some men cannot be reasoned with and some men are motivated by things we cannot begin to understand. And I know that their death may result in the safety of many and that by their own actions and our lack of understanding we can somehow justify killing them. I also know there can be no true victory when it come at the price of war nor at taking another's life.

May peace find its way into the hearts of all sentient beings.


Monday, March 14, 2011


Frustration arises when we feel that we are not making progress. We try to measure the unmeasurable. Left unchecked or allowed to grow this frustration can lead us to abanden our practice. And just become another one of the flock. we may think by giving up there would be no more ties to the force that drive us to seek for truth. But this force is something deep inside us that will not just be turned off, so stay the path and leave your yardstick behind, for our path is not to anything but rather away from. We are not going anywhere there is no destination and no matter how far we travel we can only be right here where we are.

Holding a flashlight out in front of us in the dark may shine a light on the near future but no matter how fast we walk we will never be where that light shines. We travel in this moment, we breath in this moment, it is impossible to live outside of this moment. So let go of frustration, judgement and thoughts of achievement. In this moment there is no progress to be made.