How We Practice Zazen At The Temple
The One- Hundred and Eight Bright Dharma Teachings
by Juliet Lau

July 3, 2004

Last Sunday, fifteen of our group members who regularly practice weekly at the temple with the Roshi, took the taking refuge and precepts ceremony.

I was deeply touched by the seriousness of our commitment to the Buddhist Path, and our earnest effort to follow the Way.

In the study of Buddhism, all the lessons are taught in metaphors, in various discourses, and by narrative stories.

Once, the Roshi told the story that when a carp swims up the river and through the dragon gate, he or she becomes a dragon. However, this dragon is the same form before and after passing through the dragon gate.

Another story tells us that when we are on this shore of enlightenment, we have to travel by rafts, follow maps, and teachings to cross over to the other shore. Once we are on the other shore, we are the same person. When we arrive, we see that all our relatives, friends and loved ones are standing there, clapping their hands and congratulating us for arriving. 'This is it'.

The Roshi says that now that we are on the Way, this is the beginning of the Path. We have to maintain our motivation and determination to follow this Path of the Practice of Virtue in our lives.

We are given the One-Hundred and Eight Bright Dharma Teachings to help us in walking the Way firmly.

The first Bright Dharma Teaching is 'Right Belief' or 'Right Faith'. Right Belief keeps us from losing a firm and determined mind.

In his last days, the Buddha Shakyamuni taught that people should be full of faith, modest in heart, afraid of errors, anxious to learn, strong in energy, active in mind and full of wisdom.

Each day, each moment, we practice being careful with our lives. We take good care of our bodies, taking in what is necessary to keep good health, such as good nutrition, good exercises, good rest, good occupation, and good relations with people around us and people that we live with. One Patriarch of the Buddhist Way called this body, the Dharma body as the 'best temple to practice the Buddhist Way'. Therefore, our body itself should be respected.

Transmitted with the Buddhist Way is the Buddhist robe, the Kasaya or kesa, which is also called the Great Robe of Liberation. This is known as the symbol of a Buddhist disciple.

Shakyamuni Buddha once taught:
"Chiko, listen carefully.
The kasaya has ten excellent merits.
A layperson's clothing may increase our desire,
The robe of the Tathagatha does not.
Buddhist robes cause feelings of repentance and cause well-being.
The robe protects us from cold and heat, and from poisonous insects.
It strengthens our Buddha-seeking mind leading us to enlightenment.
The robe gives us the appearance of monks and frees us from greed.
It cuts off the five mistaken views, and promotes true practice."

The Way has been explained as the Way of Wisdom, of Diligent Progress, of Forbearance, of Offering, of Meditation, and of Precepts.

We practice good will for ourselves and for others, sympathy, and compassion. We strive to live a life of peaceful existence, with harmony and cooperation with other people in our daily activities.

Precepts are guidelines for our practice. They are not commandments. Precepts and meditation are like two wheels of the cart that carry us on our daily Buddhist path.

I find that one of the most difficult precepts to practice is "do not be angry".

The Roshi taught that we should strive to use anger as a stimulus in our own lives. Revenge is not true understanding of the problem at hand. To act with the intention to be even with others can only increase suffering for ourselves and for others and cause hardship. The Roshi teaches us to be able to say, "Excuse me".

When we have no further doubt about the Path, and when we learn to be clear about ourselves, our mind is understood. We can be familiar with ourselves, assenting to ourselves, and knowing that all things are impermanent. Little by little, we develop the wisdom of not being unreasonably be carried away by things around us. We learn to live quietly with wisdom and insight, benefiting ourselves and others.

To live in this world is not an easy thing. All things happen around us: good things and bad things. Hardship and adversity in life is a fact of life, a passing phase in life. Our Roshi says that practicing the Buddhist Way is not like "eating chocolates in bed". It is not always good things that will happen all the time.

Concerning adversity, there is a quote from the poem 'Sandokai":

    The rain falls, the soil becomes firm.

In this poem, the rain refers to hardship or adversity that arises in life. The soil refers to people, each of us. To become firm means to mature. When we go through hardship or difficulties in life, we mature.

By taking the Precepts ceremony, we strive to practice with 'Right Faith' in the Way. We live with determination and resolve to succeed in our lives and not be arrested in our development. We learn to mature in times of good and bad, to be comfortable with reality, and to accept the realities of our lives. Persevering in the Right Way, like this, we have an opportunity to prove the teachings to ourselves in our daily life.

Daily Life is the Way.