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Lions Roar : November 2015
person and gently bring your palms together in front of your heart. You might bend slightly at the waist or bow your head in respect. When we join our palms in front of another person, we are recognizing the essential quality of goodness in ourselves and in them. That is truly a moment of celebration. When somebody joins their palms in front of me, I feel as if a mirror isbeinghelduptome.Init,IseewhoI truly am. It is always a powerful moment. ANOTHER PRACTICE IS TO VISUALIZE your hands as a lotus flower. As you join your palms together in front of your heart, make an offering to the buddha in front open myself to the other person and touch the realness within both of us. Perhaps the greatest advice I ever received in my spiritual life was when a senior meditation teacher told me that as Buddhists we should always avoid “covering things over with a whole lot of bells and incense. Just be yourself, truly yourself.” The act of joining our palms and bowing is first of all a physical practice, but most importantly it is a moment of mental stopping and recognition. Here are some different ways that you can practice bowing: ON THE MOST BASIC LEVEL, one practice of bowing is to look into the eyes of another WHAT IS BUDDHIST SALVATION? In Buddhism, says Zen teacher Koun Yamada, we find salvation by experiencing our true nature as human beings. ALTHOUGH THE ZEN PATH may have been lumped together with others as a “religion,” Zen differs markedly from other religions from the point of view of human salvation. In order to understand the principle of salvation in Zen Buddhism, we must turn not to the transcendent power of God but to the basic question of our own identity. What is humanity? What is this entity we call a “human being”? In Western thought these age-old questions have elicited a range of answers: Human of you. You might find it helpful to recite silently the following gatha: “A lotus for you, a buddha-to-be.” BOWING CAN ALSO BE A MENTAL PRACTICE. Too often we fail to appreciate the ordi- nary moments of our life. Bring your awareness to encounters with people whom you might normally overlook— the person at the checkout counter, the people in line with you at the airport. Stop and take a moment to recognize the person in front of you. With soft eyes and an open heart, send them your respect and appreciation. Mentally bow to the true nature of goodness you share. ♦ beings are created from the dust of the earth and defiled by sin; a person is a creature composed of body and soul; or as Descartes answered, “I think, therefore I am.” Zen Buddhism provides a different answer by declaring unequivocally that we ourselves are noth- ing but perfect, complete, infinite, and absolute existence. And Zen aims to realize this condition not through the intellect but in living experience. All the anxieties and suffering of humanity stem from the paradox that while we are by nature per- fect, we appear in the phenomenal world as imper- fection itself—limited, relative, mortal, and all too fallible—unaware of our true nature. The totality of our suffering is nothing but the labor pain of our perfect and infinite nature as it strives to negate the imperfect, limited self and to manifest itself in the phenomenal world. The efforts, struggles, and advances of humanity are the activity of this essen- tial nature revealing itself. When we who think of ourselves as imperfect, lim- ited, and relative beings awaken to our True Self in the experience of seeing into our own nature and accept this reality clearly, beyond any doubt, our anxiety and suffering vanish like clouds. The joy of this moment is beyond description. At the same time, we must understand one essen- tial point: we can never realize our True Self simply by comprehending an intellectual explanation of the principle behind it. We must encounter that True Self in actual experience to the point where we can embody it as truth. Otherwise it will never have the power to bring us to a state of true peace. From Zen: The Authentic Gate, by KOUN YAMADA, with permission from Wisdom Publications. SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2015 30 CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE