Category Archives: Zazen

Thank You Ajahn Sumedho

Thank You Ajahn Sumedho
Ching-Smith-1427469195I have been trying to make some sense of my wife’s abrupt passing after a lifetime of perfect health. She was diagnosed on February 25, 2015, rudely, shockingly, and unprofessionally told by a CT scan technician that she had four weeks to live, and passed away on March 22, 2015, the Chinese celebration day of Guan Yin Bodhisattva. (She was Chinese and Guan Yin was her ideal). I read up on pancreatic cancer after she passed away and learned that those at most risk from that extremely aggressive cancer are smokers, alcoholics, the obese, diabetics and persons with a family history of the disease. She never smoked and she worked in smoke-free workplaces, as most of us do. She never drank anything with alcohol in it; she was a green tea drinker and a vegetarian. She was skinny all her life, never getting over 100 pounds except on two occasions four years apart: When pregnant with our two daughters. She was not diabetic, had no family history of pancreatic cancer, and was a devout, practicing Buddhist. She was Guan Yin.So one day while still in shock and denial I picked up a book written by the venerable Ajahn Sumedho (The Mind and the Way; Buddhist Reflections on Life) and turned to the chapter entitled “Kamma and Rebirth.” Here are the first two paragraphs of that chapter:

We can speculate about kamma (Skt. karma) and rebirth, but all we can know directly is whether we believe in these concepts, whether we don’t believe in them, or whether we just don’t know. Rather than speculating about kamma and rebirth, I suggest that we study them in practical situations, investigate them in the present moment.

The Results of Birth

Sometimes, people ask me to explain why things happen the way they do. For instance, they might say, “I know this person who was good all her life. She never did anything wrong. She worked hard and was self-sacrificing. But she died in agony, of a terrible cancer. What did she do to deserve that terrible pain?” They want me to say, “Well, maybe in a previous life she did something nasty and now she’s paying for it.” That’s a popular explanation of how kamma works, but it’s only speculation. What we can say about this woman’s experience is this: “It happened because she was born. If she hadn’t been born, she wouldn’t have gotten sick, and she wouldn’t have died.”

(End of quote)

My wife insisted to the end that she was not in terrible pain and she died with a smile on her face. She never cried, never whimpered, never asked “why me?” never asked for a pain killer and never took a pain killer. We had morphine ready but it was never used. So her karma did not include a death in agony, I hope. But I know she was a master at keeping her pain to herself. Her consideration for the feelings of others was boundless. I saw her grimace when she swallowed; she couldn’t hide that. But I don’t think she died in agony.

But the description of that woman in Ajahn Sumedho’s book was otherwise an eerie description of my wife. Especially since I picked up that book almost at random; I have long thought highly of Ajahn Sumedho so I grabbed one of his books. And his explanation of kamma is the only one I can accept. The cause of her death was her birth. Anything else is too pat: The popular explanation that he recites is an explanation that explains everything and therefore explains nothing. The Buddha taught that all that arises, ceases. Birth is the cause of death. Case closed.

Super Power Mindfulness Zen

Super Power Mindfulness Zen

Step Nine – Reaching the Source The Second Dharma Realm Too many steps have been taken returning to the root and the source. Better to have been blind and deaf from the beginning! Dwelling in one’s true abode, unconcerned within and without – The river flows tranquilly on and the flowers are red. Reaching the… Continue Reading

Zen: Be Kind and Shallow

Zen: Be Kind and Shallow

Many Buddhists have heard the story about the fellow who was a good meditator and was proud of it. He developed an arrogant personality and his acquaintances sometimes wished something would knock him off his self-made pedestal. But instead of an event that would deflate his ego, an event occurred that puffed him up even… Continue Reading

Mean Zen, Good Results

Mean Zen, Good Results

So Time magazine tells us that the U.S. Marines are into Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. My first reaction was that using MBSR to increase the efficiency of a killing machine was a bad idea. Meditation is not a self-improvement program; quite the opposite, it lowers the boundaries between people until the meditator realizes that there… Continue Reading

Zen and the Quantum

Zen and the Quantum

I grew weary decades ago of the tiresome claims of new age non-scientist novelists that ancient spiritual masters knew all about the implications of quantum mechanics long before 20th Century physicists. Sure, the ancients may have said that all life is somehow interconnected and that the independent self is an illusion, but that is a… Continue Reading

Zen, Dokusan and Mu!

Zen, Dokusan and Mu!

Dokusan, or private instruction, provides an opportunity for Zen students to work directly with a teacher in a confidential, face-to-face setting. In the early days of Buddhism in Asia, interactions between Buddhist masters and their students usually occurred in public gatherings of the monastic community, or on spontaneous interchanges during work and other temple activities.… Continue Reading

Zen, The Stones and Scientology

Zen, The Stones and Scientology

We Zen practitioners have no bigotry or bias and we practice non-opposition so as a Zen practitioner I have no beef against Scientology. Actually, only Zen practitioners who have awakened lack all bigotry and bias. I am not an enlightened master and Scientology rubs me the wrong way. L. Ron Hubbard liked the name Clearwater so he directed… Continue Reading

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