Buddhist Book 2012:The Buddha’s Doctrine of Anatta

The most useful [rather than best] Buddhist Book I read in 2012 was Buddhadhasa Bhikkhu’s The Buddha’s Doctrine of Anatta:A Comparative Study of Self and Not-Self in Buddhism, Hinduism and Western Philosophy.

Originally written in 1939 in Thai, an English translation was produced in 1990 in Thailand. It was reproduced in The Collection of Buddhadhasa’s Long Writings but that book is rare.

It can be a quick read, done in a day, but it’s a little better to take one’s time over it to absorb some of the finer points the author makes. Anatta is not that complicated to understand if we can remove some of the misunderstandings that get introduced from other sources. That is the whole point of the book.

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Man on Cloud Mountain-Shodo Harada Roshi-Segment 7 of 7 (transcript)

[Original Title: Man on Cloud Mountain  YouTube Title: ZEN, Teaching of zen, Shodo Harada Roshi in America]

[Content: Buddha’s wish, and roll of credits]

Transcript

[Shodo Harada Roshi’s translator’s voice]

…and that’s the way that today we have the teachings of this state of mind continuing. I am absolutely sure that the Buddha did not have any wish or vow to turn everyone into Buddhists. All he wished for was the true liberation of all human minds.

[end of transcript]

Other segment transcripts available:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7

Man on Cloud Mountain-Shodo Harada Roshi-Segment 6 of 7 (transcript)

[Original Title: Man on Cloud Mountain  YouTube Title: ZEN, Teaching of zen, Shodo Harada Roshi in America]

[Content: breathing and concentration in zazen, the problems of humanity, the death of Yamada Mumon Roshi and his legacy]

Transcript

[Shodo Harada Roshi’s translator’s voice]

I was there energetically but I wasn’t heavy any more. What had happened to me on the mountain had turned my life around and had changed me in that time. Just because we sit in zazen doesn’t mean that our mind will naturally, because of that, become clear and empty of any egoistic filter. But by beginning in that way we can come to this place where we are able to think of others more than ourselves. Human beings in general are always centered on what their own needs are, what is good for them what is best for them and have very little time to consider what is better for other people. Because of this we have people all the time struggling and bumping into other people’s wishes. And feeling that what they want is more important than what someone else wants. In fact the time when the Zen teaching has been the most popular is the time when there has been the most struggle among human beings.

Only with this kind of practice can the mind become wide and expansive beyond what the ego wants all the time. Our minds no matter how hard we try not to be, no matter how hard we try to control them,  our minds are continually bombarded by egoistic wishes, by egoistic expressions by egoistic things that just come out of nowhere. Therefore, along with the breathing and the posture we have to practice the concentration which comes with the exhalation. As we exhale to that very final point we count a number. Always with the breath in your tanden, breathing out the final most possible point in your breath, never letting go of your concentration, keeping always focused on that no matter how many different thoughts come in. Letting go of them not worrying about them not giving attention to them. But just focusing on that breath. And if you do that over and over again, keeping the top of your body relaxed, keeping yourself solid so that your breath can come out without a lot of motion that’s distracting you. Keeping your breath always coming out to that very last point from your abdomen.

If you breath from a high place, if you breath up here only, then it tends to make it even more emotional. And being ruled by emotions and your ego is not the point. You are trying to go in the opposite direction from that. So keeping your breath low is very important. If you can develop that breath by doing it over and over and over not just on the cushion but in all places of your life you come to a state of mind where your mind is truly wide and open.  And when you come to this open state of mind because you have become clear and serene within yourself, in this kind of sitting, you reach the point where the breath goes on for a long time and you’ve come to that place where the egoistic noise is quieted.

Those egoistic noises don’t ever go away but we don’t pay attention to them any more. And when you keep focusing on your breath and not paying attention to them what comes is this huge expansive state of mind that was there from the very beginning. And so you are able to live. The more you practice the more easily it comes. You come to it, this state of mind and by living in this state of mind you are able to let go of that small minded view of what’s best for you and think what does this person need what does this situation want, what is the most appropriate way to behave right now, what can I do for this not what can this do for me, and how can I be helped by this situation rather what can I do to help others in this situation. It comes naturally in that case and this is just exactly what this world needs right now. This world is so scrambled up like other times in history because everyone is just flaunting their desires, flaunting their egoistic ways of thinking about things saying what they want to say about anything that their opinions are strong about and discussing that instead of letting go of all that and just becoming that huge wide mind that embraces everyone and allows them to do what they need to do, allows them to  get what they need. Letting go of your own needs, knowing that those things aren’t what is so important. Not because you are trying, or think you have to. Because when your egoistic clutter is dissipated there is no longer a need to defend and go for that stuff any more. You can let go into the huge mind that is there for everyone.

Many people may wonder how just sitting there and doing this kind of counting how that is going to get you to this place where you can get rid of this ego which is so strong and is always numbing your real feelings and your larger mind. But in fact if you just sit, become a fool to it, repeat it, go on with it, continue, it is guaranteed that breathing from the tanden, exhaling as long as you can and inhaling naturally will get you to that place where that mind is wide and expansive. And if you can get to that place then living your everyday life will be full of that kind of energy and that kind of width and breadth And in fact the energy in that width and breadth comes from that kind of breathing. People say it is foolish just sitting down like that but it isn’t a matter of doing it because someone is telling you to. Sitting in this posture and doing this kind of aligning of your breath and mind wouldn’t have been done for this many centuries if it didn’t really get you to a place that is this important. So it may seem like a small thing and people may decide not to practice because they don’t believe in it.  But you just have to become a fool in this practice and just go on with it continuously and repetitively and without allowing any gaps. And if you do it in this way then the huge mind comes of its own and if you sit in this way and then you come to this place and you naturally want to share it with other people. And if other people can see this and understand that it is possible to realize their true nature in this way then they are going to want to develop this kind of mind too. And in that way you are passing it around just by becoming it

You may ask what good is this small clear state of mind for solving the problems of humanity if we are only one mind in many.  But what other way is there to do it?  If one person becomes clear and the things that are usually confused and complicated in the outside world can be seen by them in their clearest way, then that way of seeing things is passed on to everyone around them. And the world begins to become easier to deal with and clearer for everybody who can stay in this widened mind. And that passes around to others. And in this way the purpose of zazen, this focused practice is to bring all of us to this more peaceful and centered way of living and seeing the world.

II

We believe we should live like those who have come before us. But to be concerned with possessions and money is not the way it has to be done. When my teacher Yamada Mumon Roshi moved from the monastery in Kobe, where he had lived for some twenty years, to become abbot in Kyoto he just one day got up and left carrying only one thing, his wrapping cloth holding only his diary, leaving everything else behind. All the things he had gathered and accumulated for 27 years. Most people usually clean up and organize around themselves in apprehension of death. Mumon Roshi had no attachment to that or the idea of doing that. When he died never even having a cold for over 27 years, in the 5 days before his death he just became a little weaker. He left as someone taking off their clothes smoothly passing on. There are things which Mumon Roshi in his physical life couldn’t completely finish and I have taken them on for him. Or more than that. Though Mumon Roshi’s physical life ended with his physical body, that true life energy keeps going and I am simply continuing the expression of that in the way that Mumon Roshi gave light to. When someone is as deeply enlightened or touches the true source as directly as Mumon Roshi did, there will always be someone around who is deeply impressed by that person’s state of mind. And when that person who is moved and impressed and keeps that going, then people around them are again moved and full of wonder at that. And that’s how that keeps working. It is because the deep enlightenment of the Buddha or the deep understanding and love and compassion of Christ were like that, that people have been impressed and felt that deeply and kept…

[end of transcript]

Other segment transcripts available:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7

Man on Cloud Mountain-Shodo Harada Roshi-Segment 5 of 7 (transcript)

[Original Title: Man on Cloud Mountain  YouTube Title: ZEN, Teaching of zen, Shodo Harada Roshi in America]

[Content: technology and the speed of modern life, alienation, returning from the mountain, the effects of kensho experience]

Transcript

[Shodo Harada Roshi’s translator’s voice]

I

We have all these machines that are making our lives a lot easier. We have a lot of things that we can relate to in terms of comfort or production. But what has been lost. What hasn’t been given back. But look at economics. Economics supposedly helps to solve our problems by giving us more money or making our world more stable financially. But people believe in this economical thing more than they believe in something which is to be found within themselves. Economics is concerned with external things and it is external things that we are always concerned with and talking about. But external things cannot fill the void created by the loss of our ability to know what a god is or even to believe that a god is possible. For example look at the workplace. The work in the old days was done by people who were doing apprenticeships, they were learning to make very fine quality material. Things that are made now by the hundreds each day were once made one at a time after many long years of apprenticeship and may have taken months or even years to make even one of good quality. Today things are not made with the same kind of quality because science and the economics of scale can produce hundreds of them that are just as convenient in the same amount of time. No one cares except in a very few special cases how it is being made or the heart it is being made with.

And people who come to a company they’re all the same. Just because someone has been there for 10 years and can make it in a better,in a more intuitive and well-crafted way doesn’t make any difference. Because it is all being produced automatically. So someone who comes into the company that day is the same as someone who has been working there for 20 years. If they can just learn how to use the machinery there is no difference between them. So that respect, that caring, that really meaningfulness in a hand produced product  has disappeared. Some people do feel it. But that overall way of life is not common any more.

Then we get to these factories The idea of making such huge establishments. Smaller companies have to join together to make one huge mega-company in order to survive. And then within that one company you have competition. You have this company all divided into little groups each of which has one part of the automation line and those little groups are competing with each other. So people are looking at each other as someone to compete with not people to be one with or connect to.

And then from there we go to the home.which is loaded with all kinds of information. And if you don’t have that information you can’t keep up with your job. You can’t compete with that other part of the company who is doing things and trying to do them better than you. You have this kind of constant stimulation of information.  Not in a creative way that allows you to be creative and imaginative but rather in a dictatorial way telling you what to do, how things should be done and how the world is instead of letting you to create and be full of a world which is imagined and full of possibility for each individual person. You get bombarded with all this different information with how things are on the outside. How what is going on is going on.

And then in the home instead of living as a group connected, everyone has their own television in their own room. Getting together and working out what to watch is not popular. Everyone goes to their own room and  watches what they want to watch. And everyone has their own telephone instead of waiting for the next person to finish and making your own phone call. It is very convenient to have your own telephone for your own phone call. And this brings about a tremendous amount of loneliness and melancholy and despair. In isolation in your own house or your own company or your own world. You get into a car. Everyone has their own space, their own room, their own television, their own telephone. You get into a car. And when you close the door it is your own space. It could be two people from the same family and when they come to an intersection they are enemies. Whoever gets their foot on the pedal first goes first.

That kind of egoistic driving and being competitive with everyone instead of cooperating and living together with them is just everywhere. And we go on from that to just how people are with each other. This competitive way of trying to get what you need ahead of everyone else. The world for example is divided. People fight against each other across lines that don’t even exist. These lines of countries which have been invented by the ego on the earth. There is no line on any kind of natural ground that says this is this country and that is that country. There is no line on the ocean that says this is this country’s territory and this is that country’s territory.  Only human ego, with its relentless urge to make things our own, trying to compartmentalize, trying to compete. Only this ego has made this kind of constriction of our earth, this division of this earth happen. It doesn’t even exist in reality. Only  people’s egos and protective energy and territorial feelings have made those lines become accepted and real and made everyone deal with them.

This kind of thing just makes our dilemma of being isolated and miserable and feeling lonely deeper and deeper all the time. And what is there to do about this? All of these problems are being loaded upon us without any alternative for finding a place where we can be connected, for finding a place where we can come together to feel the original mind we are all endowed with. We are completely aware when we realize that true mind of how we are all connected. Whereas everything in society everything around us is stating to us how separate we are and pushing us apart from each other. Therefore to be able to come back to that place which is beyond that egoistic push, competitive push, isolating rigidity. To realize that mind which sees things directly truly as they are. not in the sense of ego which is separating and disconnecting everything. To be able to come to that mind where that clear, huge, great embracing mind is possible is what is most necessary right now. That’s why this practice is necessary right now.

This expansive mind, this mind that sees directly knows the all inclusiveness, is aware of the connection between everything. Because when you get rid of that ego that’s all you see is one unified whole. That connection of everything in one’s being is what is apparent when that ego is gone away. But as long as we all hold onto our ego because we are forced to by what society demands of us, unless we free ourselves from that and return to that clear mind, we will never be able to solve that suffering, that deep anguish that comes from our separation from everything including each other. For this reason this possibility of a way to get out of that ego bind to relieve ourselves of that and get back to that true mind which is clear and huge and all embracing is very, very important right now

II

When I came back from the mountain I knew from what had happened there exactly what I had to do. I understood that until that time I had been sitting and living with a very small egoistic idea of what it was I was doing all this for. It had been an egoistic urge that had carried me to the mountains in the first place even though what I was trying to do was to reach a deep enlightenment experience. So when I came back to the monastery I didn’t have that sense any more. I knew then that my life wasn’t about my own problems. Those problems didn’t exist. What I had to do with my life was to live it totally with the purpose of bringing this crystal awareness to other people. That’s all I really wanted to do. And that was in fact what I had been doing from the beginning. But I had closed it down in an egoistic small way.

I had gone to the mountain for only my own enlightenment. It had been an expression of my ego. But because of that I had been able to awaken to that greater purpose, awaken to that greater self that had work to do in this world. So when I came back my zazen also became very different. Before when I sat I’ would sit with a very strong sense of myself, of myself being there, a heaviness. Now I didn’t have that at all. I was sitting there being lived through by another great energy. And for the first time my eyes would be placed where I was focusing and they wouldn’t move. They would be drawn into the floor where I was looking. And when I was doing kinhin,walking meditation my gaze would just be straight and not feel like looking anywhere else, drawn into where I was looking. And this went on for several days. And this brought me to a place where I could answer koans a lot faster. I clearly knew what my teacher was saying to me. The things that had been stopping me before weren’t stopping me anymore. Those things that had been in the way obstructing me weren’t there any more. And I saw how well I could understand what my teacher was saying regarding the koans and the words I was given as I passed through the koans. I could grasp them very quickly and they seemed more obvious to me. And I knew that because of the way things were going that my sitting went much much more light…

[end of transcript]

Other segment transcripts available:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7

Man on Cloud Mountain-Shodo Harada Roshi-Segment 4 of 7 (transcript)

[Original Title: Man on Cloud Mountain  YouTube Title: ZEN, Teaching of zen, Shodo Harada Roshi in America]

[Content: mountain training, pivotal moments, enlightenment as a return to basic consciousness on a daily basis, science replacing spiritual practice ]

Transcript

[Shodo Harada Roshi’s translator’s voice]

I

I took everything out of the monastery. I left prepared for never coming back and I headed for the mountains. And I went here and there in the mountains sitting by myself, sitting as hard as I could. Not even knowing what day it was Not even knowing how much time I was spending there. I just went and sat and sat and sat in various places in the mountains. And I remember well I was in this one place when I was between Yamaguchi prefecture and Hiroshima prefecture I was sitting on top of this one mountain. I hadn’t seen anyone for many days and suddenly someone was coming up the mountain. Of course in the mountains people are friendly to each other because there are not so many people in the mountains. I was doing zazen there and they asked if I was a person of training. And I told them yes I was and they asked how long I had been there, what I was doing.  And then they told me how lucky I was. And at these words I was so deeply struck that my whole life was again changed. They said to me we are also a people of a kind of practice we do the chanting of the Buddha’s name but we aren’t lucky like you that we can take our whole life and give it up for training. We have to work from Monday to Saturday. In our tiny time of freedom from Saturday night to Monday morning we come up on the mountain and practice our chanting of the Buddha’s name. But you are so lucky you are able to devote your whole life to training. And we are so envious of you that you are able to do that.

At that I was completely knocked out. I realized the deep meaning of what they were saying. For them it was quite straightforward and nothing in particular, but it made me realize what I had been missing. I had been doing, in my own small narrow way, exactly what I wanted to do. What they were having to do was in a social situation of having to work, having to keep their training going, having only a very small amount of time to devote to it totally And here I was already blessed to get this chance to give everything I had to training to devote myself completely to training.  And I was running away from that and cutting myself off, shutting myself up in a small narrow place in my mountain training all by myself.

And I realized right then the mistake I was making and I went right back to the monastery. I knew what I had to do now And at that moment it was like all of my burdens dropped off, as if someone had hit me on the back and everything was awakened within. I realized there was nothing I needed to do for myself in the first place. If every moment that came along I just took it as it was then there was nothing that could be a problem to me any more.

That small narrow way in which I had been looking at my enlightenment, my thing to have to do. I have to do this for myself. That is what had been bothering me all along from the very beginning. Through that day on the mountain when I realized that there was no self to be bothered with it.  I had been crushing myself and making myself miserable  worrying about this problem of my enlightenment  and realizing it for myself making my self come to a conclusion that was, in fact, found in the living of every single day. If I did nothing, if I didn’t even worry about my problems things always came to me. And those things that came to me in every single day, to accept those was my training and my way of expressing my enlightened mind. No matter what it was that came to me every day, the next thing that came, the next situation I found myself in, to live that totally as my training was what I had to do.  Not to go isolate myself up on a mountain closed off from everyone, turning them all away and worrying about my own small state of mind. That wasn’t the point at all. But to go and be what every day brought to me that was my practice and my expression of my enlightenment. And ever since I realized that my whole life has been completely different. I know there is no problem for myself because there is no one there to feel that there is a problem. Just to take what every day brings and do that with my best, total, whole hearted effort as a person of practice. That was the way to live.

II

Often enlightenment or kensho or satori is considered to be some kind of unusual experience or something external or some kind of special phenomenon. But it’s not like that. There may be some kind of sudden revelation or some kind of sudden perception, but its not something that is that unusual or that strange or foreign that we come upon or that comes upon us. What it is, is the ability to see without any interruption of the ego, without any filtering of the ego.  And since we are all walking around seeing things through our ego filter almost all the time, to suddenly be able to see without that filter is a surprise. But it is nothing that we have ever not had.

They say that the mind of a baby is something that we can compare this to. A baby isn’t seeing things from an egoistic place. It is seeing directly and clear. It is the exact same kind of thing when we are seeing without the ego filter. We see that there is nothing to be analyzed in it. When you are seeing a flower you are not thinking that it is red or seeing a bird you are not thinking what its name is. You are just seeing directly. When we talk about enlightenment we are talking about that mind which is perceive at every moment without  the obstruction of an egoistic filter. The experience of that mind and realizing where it is and realizing where it is coming from is what is called enlightenment or kensho or satori. It is not some kind of supernatural state of mind that we are able to enter or that comes upon us.  It is not like some kind of altered state of consciousness to think that we are trying to do this practice for some kind of narrow experience for the individual. Thinking that we are going to come upon some big experience some day. This is a very low level understanding of what this enlightenment is.

It’s a return to our basic state of consciousness which we possess all the time but are always cluttering up with extraneous views and with the ego. The ego is consistently on top of us. It is always, always there. And if we can succeed in clearing it out what we can see without it is truly surprising. And that kind of surprise, that kind of wonder, that kind of enjoyment and joyfulness is obvious and it does truly happen. The difference for that ego is a big difference. but it’s not something we come to externally.  It’s something we come to internally. We realize it by getting rid of things not by adding on an abnormal state. And once we realize this state once we recognize this we say, ah this is that mind that is without all those things.  And then to live every moment without that egoistic filter on that inner eye, that is what has to be done, that is the real goal and that is the larger part of our training practice. Once we have recognized that new way of seeing, that new eye, an inner eye, once we have encountered that then we must nurture the ability to encounter every moment of our lives from that clear pure place. To live in that is the most important part of the practice. To be able to take that clear mind which is not covered by ego, to keep that going, to live in that place all the time that is what has to be done. Until we know what it is, we can’t keep it going. So that first understanding of where that clear place is, is often what people sometimes call enlightenment or kensho or satori. But to be able to come to every moment with that state of mind that is what’s most important.

We need this clear pure mind because everyone is so far beyond knowing what to do about the terrible situation they are in. And this is true on many different fronts. For example, people used to be able to believe in God. In the olden days there was a real sense of belief in something, for children especially. And you could really take that in and find comfort and guidance and direction in it. But nowadays people who are really able to believe in God, and not go to church for some functional reason or because it looks good socially, but actually have that belief are blessed with that belief and they are very few. Instead what has come to replace that is a belief in science and technology. The worlds that are beginning our lives to a convenient place. Where everything can be produced and understood analytically and scientifically. This instead is what people are counting on and be reconfirmed by. But science and technology are filling our world with a lot of technical material riches without giving us anything spiritual. They have taken away our ability to believe in something which is not able to be seen with our five senses and replaced it with nothing more than material advantage and convenience.

[end of transcript]

Other segment transcripts available:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7