Are you working hard? At Sogenji, we do sesshin daily, we sit between 1 and 8 hours each day. During the daytime we do samu, and continue zazen morning and night. Of course during Osesshin we sit for 12 hours a day. There is teisho and zazen during the Osesshin once a month, and 2 or 3 kosesshin every month. About 3 weeks each month we are in sesshin. Especially now everybody is able to enter deeply into their training.
Now that the temperatures are rising and it is almost summer, everyone hopes the infection rate will slow down. Most likely each country will face a more relaxed situation. Maybe this autumn and winter we will again have some virus around. This situation is not just about this moment but we need to look ahead at how we can best deal with the challenges we are facing.
Wherever our surroundings, we need to maintain our health, that is our individual responsibility. Our countries have put out various regulations, and we do not feel alive under these restrictions, however can perceive from a wider view, this is what we need to learn as humans.
The Buddha said:
We are what we think, having become what we thought. Like the cart wheel that follows the ox, sorrow follows an evil thought.
We are what we think, having become what we thought. Like the shadow that never leaves one, happiness follows a pure thought.
In this reality we have this body. This body receives the conditions of its’ surroundings. At times it might be hard to know how to continue, to keep going. Still our life continues, new life is born, exists and finally disappears again. This is the pattern of our life. Yet our life does not exist only for one generation, but since the birth of this planet, it has been influenced by the condition of the universe. Life came forth, humans evolved and were able to keep polishing their wisdom while adapting to each new situation. This is where we find ourselves now, that a new world has to open up.
If we look at this we are not just alive while we have this physical body, but the wisdom of the ancients is alive within us. This is where our focus has to be, that is where we ourselves now need to polish. This is what the Buddha is teaching us with the words above.
We cannot drown in this situation, but piercing from the past through the present to the future, with a bright, clear and open mind. This is where we need to place our faith.
In the olden days we relied on god or buddha, rather than looking at the situation in this way all humans can open their eyes and see this very reality. Receiving support from the people who are close to us, we see that only a huge wise mind can bring forth a revolution.
This is what the Buddha taught, we do zazen with this intention, not hoping that zazen will liberate us, instead when our mind settles, we become this mind which pierces through all three times [past, present, future], which can go beyond time. It is not about our own happiness, but including everyone, we can see how we should live, this is our lesson in these times.
We need to take this time now and the next few years to continue to open our mind, to truly awaken to our original mind. Take the wisdom of the ancients and directly use it for your own life, what do these teaching actually mean to you in your life? That is where we need to reflect.
Corona virus is not the only reason people get sick. There are many other reasons, in every case we need to support the sick people and be there for them in the best possible way. Or else we are irresponsible human beings.
This is where Vimalakirti teaches us on how we can support a sick person. Monjusri asks: “ You are sick, we come to greet you, yet your wisdom is what we need to hear, how can we actually meet someone who is sick?” Vimalakirti replies: “We never know what will happen next in this world, we never know what will happen to our body next. This world is in constant change, we are in constant change while we cannot live forever, while we need to die eventually.” This cannot be ignored. We are healthy and need to be thankful for it. We need to also prepare ourselves that we will eventually die. When we greet someone who is sick, we need to be an expansive mind. At that time, we cannot speak about meaningless things.
This wide state of mind is what we can share with the sick person, giving them a sense of the hugeness of this life energy, which will continue even tomorrow. This huge state of mind is what we can give.
Our life is just as the Buddha taught in the four noble truths. This life is suffering, awaken to this fact. Do not stay with pleasures only but live in a way that you stay grounded, that is where we need to make efforts.
Awaken to the fact that life is suffering. That is how our life is. And then the smallest joy is something we can be extremely thankful for. We do not need to try and escape the suffering, but rather while we are suffering, how should we see ourselves? How can we maintain faith in ourselves, how can we have hope – that is what brings us to wisdom.
We encounter many different situation, yet to have an idea about what we are, that does not help us any further. Rather see that we exist because there are many around us who are supporting us, and from that thankfulness arises. Our state of mind expands, then we naturally want to reach out to support others.
Please hold out this hand to another so that they may also liberate themselves. Doing this, all types of thoughts arise. These are only about the phenomenal world and are in constant change. That is where we can use our wisdom, our quiet eye, no need to hurry here, but take this wisdom as being most precious. With this wisdom you can truly meet and greet another person. Not giving the other meaningless worry or hope, rather give them deep wisdom about life, this is how we can support one another. Vimalakirti is teaching us that we cannot lose sight of this state of mind when we meet another person.