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Lions Roar : November 2017
your right hand rests in your lap facing up and your left hand sits lightly on top of it. The thumbs gently touch each other as if holding a piece of paper, form- ing an oval just below the navel. Since this is considered the spiritual and ener- getic center of the body, the mudra is called cosmic because we gently hold the universe in our hands. More practically, the circle often starts to collapse as our attention wanders or we get drowsy, which is a helpful reminder to wake up. I don’t like the formal way to meditate— sitting in a room on a cushion. Are there other ways I can get the benefits of meditation practice? The main point of mindfulness medita- tion is to train your mind to return to the present moment—what’s going on inside and all around you—and help you become familiar with your mind. To do this, you need some kind of anchor to return to. In formal seated meditation, you gener- ally return to your breathing and sense of being seated on the earth, so to speak. But it’s possible to use other kinds of anchors. If you’re out for a walk, you could notice each foot as it touches the ground. If you swim laps, it could be the sound of the water as your hands break the surface. You can sit outside on a rock or a bench and use your breath as an anchor. The more you return to your present experience—whatever and wher- ever it is—the more familiar you’ll become with what’s happening in your mind. After awhile, you may even be up for sitting in a room on a cushion. “Nirvana” is a Buddhist term you don’t hear much these days. What does it really mean? In Buddhism, we are said to be trapped in samsara, an existence filled with suffering caused by ego—our desire to create and maintain a permanent self that is not sub- ject to change. We achieve nirvana—a state of total peace without any clinging or struggle—when we are completely free from the illusion of ego. One who reaches nirvana is called an arhat, an enlightened person who is free from suffering and the poisons of passion, aggression, and ignorance. Mahayana Buddhism also teaches that it is possible to go beyond dwelling in nirvana and follow the path of the bodhisattva, who attains complete buddhahood by dedicating themselves to the enlightenment of all sentient beings. ♦ WHO? WHAT? WHERE? Tell us what you’d like to know about Buddhism and meditation at firstname.lastname@example.org ISTOCK.COM/THOTH_ADAN ENSO ENSO, A JAPANESE WORD meaning “circular form,” is the supreme symbol of enlightenment in Zen Buddhism. In the Shinjinmei, an early Zen text, the way of the Buddha is described as “a circle like vast space, lacking nothing, nothing in excess.” In short, the enso defines the Zen state of mind. Ensos can be written in the air, drawn in the dirt, or, most typically, brushed on paper. The earliest known enso painting is by the Chinese Zen master Kyozan (814–890). Thereafter, enso paintings became a primary teaching vehicle in East Asian Buddhism, especially in Japan. Together with portraits of Bodhidharma, nearly every Zen master since the time of Hakuin has produced enso paint- ings as meditation aids for their students and patrons. Each Zen master has his or her own style, and that individuality is expressed in the ensos they brush. Some Zen circles are perfectly symmetrical; others are completely lopsided. Some are done in one bold stroke; others are composed with two half circles. Some are thick and massive; others are thin and delicate. Most begin in the left-hand corner of the paper, but others start at the top or bottom. Most enso paintings have an accompanying inscription to serve as a “hint” to the meaning of the circle. “In heaven and on earth I am the Only Honored One!”— Shakyamuni’s bold declaration at his birth—is a popular inscription. The most common is simply, “What is this?” leaving the interpretation up to the viewer. After asking this question on his painting of an enso, one Zen mas- ter added, “I don’t know either!” —John Stevens, author of Sacred Calligraphy of the East LION’S ROAR | NOVEMBER 2017 33 CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE