Noon Blessing, Day 45 – Practice and the meaning of one mind

May all of us here,
practitioners at this temple,
as well as those in other places,
understand the meaning of “one mind,”
and so get along harmoniously with each other,
and so keep brightening the light of our inherent nature,
and without delay,
attain true and upright enlightenment.

When it comes to practice, there are a lot of nuances and implications of “one mind.” Even when someone tells us about them, they usually don’t sink in too far, because we are still unconsciously viewing everything we see and experience through the lens of “separate from me.”

Where did this idea of “separate from me” start? No idea, but it’s probably an element of evolution, where when circumstances were so desperate, we had to focus on ourselves in order to survive. We almost certainly had to do terrible things, and “not me” was probably the only way to get through that. And if all the beings around us were behaving the same way, then absorbing the idea of “one mind” from others would have been off the table.

But, now we know better, and most of us are in circumstances where eating and surviving don’t require terrible decisions. Now we can live without causing too much suffering. Now we can open ourselves to the idea of “one mind.” Now we have the virtue and good fortune to re-orient our lives in tune with this.

Noon Blessing, Day 43 – Realms where we can practice and awaken

Having thus given rise to the desire for enlightenment,
may every kind of spirit be reborn in a virtuous realm,
where they are able to practice and awaken.

While it’s true that we care with us all that we need to practice and awaken, it’s also true that until we have firmly found our footing, support and guidance are necessary.

If we are still unsure about what we have to do, then it’s a lot harder to get there if no one around us is practicing. Or if we are just too poor. There’s nothing wrong with being poor, but as the great practitioner Tevye said, it’s no great blessing either! Too much of anything, including poverty, can overwhelm us.

So to be born in a place surrounded by the virtuous and wise, with adequate food and shelter, is no bad thing.

Noon Blessing, Day 42 – May every kind of suffering spirit immediately enter one of the heavenly realms

May every kind of suffering spirit,
may every spirit with a connection to Buddhism,
or any other religion,
may every spirit around the world,
through the virtue of their affinity with those here today,
or through the virtue of their ability to be touched by our intentions,
may each and every one of these spirits,
immediately enter one of the heavenly realms,
and there meet Amita Buddha.
May they thus give rise to the desire for enlightenment.

One of the touching things about reading this, is that as soon as I do, there’s an “Ahh” moment, where something deep down in me relaxes. Something within me knows that this verse is deeply true, and is how we should be seeing the world.

Noon Blessing, Day 41 – May all the deceased who have a connection with us….

Neither the living nor the dead are separate from each other,
with this in mind,
we raise the intention that all spirits
who have a connection with those of us here today,
whether from this life or past lives,
whether they were our grandparents, parents, brothers or sisters,
nieces, nephews, or even our children,
whether present here today,
or in the next town or the one beyond that,
whether awakened or lost in darkness,
whether currently having a body or not,
whether they are able to live freely,
or are caught up in ignorance,
may they all gather together here, now,

at this place of learning and practicing,
like streams flowing to the ocean.

Where the last verse was short, this one is long, lol. But it’s just as wonderful! One of the things that’s so touching about this verse is it’s unconditional, all-embracing attitude. “May those who are doing well, as well as those who are screwing up all come together, and learn and grow.”

It’s easy to hate or look down on people who are behaving badly. Given that they are usually causing us pain or inconvenience, that’s not a surprising reaction. But to look at even them with warmth and compassion is impressive, and is a great teaching for all the rest of us.

The Thousand Hands Sutra on YouTube- Chanted in Korean, with English text on the screen.

We just finished something cool – The Thousand Hands Sutra is up on YouTube!
This is chanted in Korean by Bo Won Sunim (who’s incredible!) with the English translation behind it. This is the Korean version by Daehaeng Kun Sunim, and is frankly, an incredible guide to the spiritual life and spiritual practice. Really. It’s so detailed and so deep that I want to figure out how to make a workbook or something out of it.

Noon Blessing, Day 38 – May every place of practice be protected

May every place of practice be protected,
and may its energy continue without end.

In general, a “place of practice,” or 도량 in Korean, refers to a physical place, such as a building or temple. But, Daehaeng Kun Sunim has also used this to mean us. We, here in our body, are where we are practicing, and where we have to practice. This is where true cultivation happens, as we work and struggle to transcend our habits and fixed ways of perceiving and reacting.

That said, I’ve visited old temple sites in Korea that have felt alive with energy. It feels like the energy of all the people practicing there had sunk down into the ground, and was still there, vibrating.

Noon Blessing, Day 37 – May all beings be free from poverty

(persimmons drying in the sun)

May all beings be free from poverty.

Around eighty years ago, in a letter to Kyong Bong Sunim, the great Seon master Han Am Sunim wrote, “My only wish is that the crops always be plentiful, and to spend the months and years peacefully.” When I first read that, I just kind of passed it by, “That’s nice.” But later, it began to strike home.

If the crops are good, then everyone will likely have enough to eat. Farmers will have a bit of cash, and merchants will be buying and selling. Factories and farms will be hiring, and it won’t be too hard to at least get enough to eat. If people have enough to eat, they won’t be pushed into desperation. They won’t go down dark paths, driven by hunger and poverty. Even ordinary, dark-minded people will tend to be moderate in their behavior, because they mostly have enough to live on.

For most of us, I doubt (thankfully!) we can truly imagine the depths that true poverty and desperation push people towards. So although there are unpleasant things in the world, evil even, having enough for our basic needs nonetheless moderates those things to a huge degree. So just having plentiful harvests is a huge deal.