Posted in buddhism

Interview with Alex Kakuyo (Podcast)

I had my first long distance podcast guest. Sensei Alex Kakuyo is a lay Buddhist minister and author of Perfectly Ordinary: Buddhist Teachings for Everyday Life.

Download here and please subscribe:

Anchor

Spotify

Apple Podcasts

Google Podcasts

If your favorite platform isn’t one of these four, search for “Sharpening the Mind” and let me know if you don’t find it. Also, please subscribe.

 

You can learn about Alex here: thesameoldzen.com

And you can buy his book here: Perfectly Ordinary

Alex teaches in the Bright Dawn Tradition, which you can learn about here: Brightdawn.org

I first “met” Alex because I saw his writing at The Tattooed Buddha, which you can see here: The Tattooed Buddha

——————————————————————————–

if you want to support this podcast by making a donation you can do so by clicking here: paypal.me/danielscharpenburg

Go like my Facebook Page: facebook.com/dscharpy

Posted in buddhism

Online Practice Opportunities

I hope you’re staying safe during the pandemic. I started doing daily videos over a month ago on my Facebook page. (facebook.com/dscharpy) I did these videos based on a Buddhist text called “The 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva” At some point I’d like to teach a class on that text, a real and in person class. But we’ll see if such an opportunity ever appears. Anyway, You can access those videos here: https://kansascitymeditation.com/37-practices-of-a-bodhisattva-series/ All of that inspired me to make some more efforts to share teachings. So I’m livestreaming talks on my Facebook page according to a new schedule. schedule This is the new project. Meditation centers and Buddhist Temples are closed because of the virus.
I’m doing livestream videos on my Facebook page to give talks and to offer opportunities to practice with me. I sort of think of this as “teachings from the hermitage”
A Chan Hermitage is a place where an ordained Buddhist teacher lives and shares teachings and practices with people that visit. It’s a place to practice with sincerity, humility, and simplicity. In Buddhism there has always been temple practice for people that thrive in that world and hermit practice for people that don’t. Watching my videos is like entering my hermitage to receive teachings or to practice with me.
Can I help you with your practice? I think many of us are spending a lot more time at home because of the virus, but, ironically we’re so stressed by the virus that we aren’t meditating. And because we’re not meditating…we’re more stressed. So, tune in for these teachings if you’re interested. http://facebook.com/dscharpy ========================================================================= Visit my YouTube Channel to hear  Talks! If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation. And go check out my Podcast Sharpening the Mind img_2525
Posted in buddhism, videos

37 Practices of a Bodhisattva Series

37 practices of all bodhisattvas

I did a series of daily talks during the Covid-19 lockdown.

I wanted to do something during this crisis, something to try to help others (and myself). At first I thought it might be too ambitious to give talks every day, but I made it work and I’m pretty proud of the series. I had intended for it to end right at the end of the lockdown here in Kansas City, but the lockdown has been extended.

I’ll try something else next. Putting out this material has been good as far as giving me something to do, bringing something positive into the world when so many people are struggling with what’s going on.

What’s a Bodhisattva?
A Bodhisattva is someone who is trying to unleash their potential for mindfulness and compassion. We’re on the Bodhisattva path because we’re trying our best.

This text “the 37 practices of a Bodhisattva” is a concise text written by a Tibetan teacher in the 14th century named Tokme Zangpo. It’s a summary of how we should behave as we are on the path to awakening. It’s like a list of 37 tips to help keep us on track.

Going through these every day has been enormously meaningful and helpful to me. I want to teach a class on this text at some point and I’m hoping an opportunity for that will appear.  

So, I am sharing all of the videos here.

You don’t have to watch all of these and you don’t have to watch them in any order.

These teachings are offered free of charge, but if you feel compelled to make a donation to support this work, you can click here:

donate

  1. Make Life Meaningful
  2. Attachment and Hatred
  3. Abandoning Negative Places
  4. Giving Up Concern For This Life
  5. Bad Company
  6. Relying on a Spiritual Friend
  7. Taking Refuge
  8. Lower Realms and Virtue
  9. Happiness is Like a Dewdrop
  10. What Use is Our Own Happiness?
  11. A Mind Intent on Benefitting Others
  12. When Someone Steals
  13. If Someone Tries To Cut Off Your Head
  14. Bringing Disgrace Onto the Path
  15. Bringing Harsh Words Onto the Path
  16. Bringing Ingratitude Onto the Path
  17. Bringing Defamation Onto the Path
  18. Bringing Decline Onto the Path
  19. Bringing Prosperity Onto the Path
  20. Bringing Anger Onto the Path
  21. Bringing Attachment Onto the Path
  22. Free From Delusion
  23. The Object of Attachment
  24. The Object of Aversion
  25. Training in Generosity
  26. Training in Discipline
  27. Training in Patience
  28. Training in Diligence
  29. Training in Concentration
  30. Training in Wisdom
  31. Examine Your Confusion
  32. The Faults of Others
  33. Honor and Status
  34. Giving Up Harsh Words
  35. Negative Emotions
  36. Mindfulness and the Benefit of Others
  37. Conclusion

 

================================================

Visit my YouTube Channel to hear  Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast The Kansas City Meditation Podcast

 

 

Posted in buddhism, ch'an

Intro to Silent Illumination

Silent Illumination (mozhao) is a formless meditation practice.*

The Buddhism I really teach is Silent Illumination Chan. Its is a meditation practice founded entirely in the awakening of our true nature in the here and now.

These words aren’t used for no reason. “Silent” represents the core of our being. Some people prefer words like “emptiness” or “no self.”

What’s that? It’s our mind before thinking. Before we think about our baggage or the projections we put on the world. We have a lot of narratives and constructs around ourselves and the silence represents what’s underneath all that. There is what’s been called a “don’t know mind” or “beginner’s mind” that exists underneath these layers.

I call it silence.

When we can engage this silence, we can gain some insight. We can see that things are impermanent and that everything is connected. Sometimes this is called Selflessness, which is a kind of heavy and hard to understand word. It just means that we are part of the world. We didn’t come into the world, we came out of it and we are connected to everything.

The silent part of our mind is free from the coming and going of all our distracted thoughts and delusions.

We could say the silence is like the sky and all our thoughts and delusions, all of our bullshit, is clouds passing through. They just pass through and they’re gone. We don’t have to do anything except: not obsess about the clouds. The sky isn’t really effected by the clouds, and you don’t have to be effected by your shit.

The true nature of your mind is free from disturbance. And we can tune into that silence even when we’re in the middle of turmoil—even when everything is going wrong. That silence is still there. It’s not something outside of us. It’s not something we’re trying to gain; it’s there underneath. The nature of the mind is free of all that nonsense. And I call it silence.

Illumination represents the natural function of our minds, which is wisdom. This is related to silence because it’s that empty nature that allows this wisdom to appear. This is openness—mental freedom—the ability to change and liberate ourselves.

Illumination is the function of wisdom and it responds to the needs of ourselves and others.

It’s where we learn how to see things as they really are and have a more dynamic and clear view of the world around us. This is clarity beyond the stories we tell ourselves and our self image. It’s the sky without the clouds.

The practice is sometimes called “the method of no method” and that’s why some may find it difficult at first. Silent Illumination isn’t really a practice. It’s rooted in the idea that we already have the wisdom we are seeking.

To compare it to other forms of meditation, Buddhist meditation is usually put in categories of either calming (samatha) or insight (vipassana). One of these is designed to help bring stability to our scattered minds. The other is to gain insight into the nature of our minds.

Silent Illumination includes both. Traditionally it’s said that calmness leads to meditative absorption and insight leads to wisdom. In Silent Illumination these aren’t practiced separately. They’re practiced together because the truth is there is no separation. The true nature of calm is silence.

So how do we do it?

In sitting meditation we don’t try to do anything. We don’t need to try to force the clouds to go away. We just try to be aware of each moment. Just pay attention to the sitting that you’re doing.

We’re not trying to follow the breath; we’re not trying to keep a mantra. We’re not visualizing anything. We’re just being here. Be with your body sitting. Stop doing everything else and just sit. Every time you get distracted, just come back to sitting and notice how sitting feels.

Just be here.

When we sit in this way, the mind calms down and calmness (samadhi) comes. And after we do it a little while, wisdom (prajna) follows. And even if you have powerful experiences, even if you think you’ve made some wonderful attainment, still just come back to the sitting. This is all there is.

This is just a brief introduction. My favorite practice is the method of no method.

 

*a version of this article originally appeared on The Tattooed Buddha

=========================================================================

Visit my YouTube Channel to hear  Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast The Kansas City Meditation Podcast

 

Posted in buddhism

The Five Hindrances

This is a list of five things we talk about that tend to get in the way of our well-being. These are the things that often make it more difficult to be mindful and aware in our lives.

 

Attachment; craving and chasing after pleasure all the time.

Aversion; resistance to pain, hatred and resentment about our experience

Restlessness; anxiety, the inability to settle down

Sloth; laziness, procrastination

Doubt; believing we can’t handle any of this

 

 These are the things that get in our way the most. I think restlessness and attachment are the ones I experience the most. These things are part of normal experience and everyone has to deal with all five. I think it helps to remind ourselves that these things are normal, that we aren’t dealing with them because we’re broken. It’s because we’re human. To be human is to struggle with these things. It’s not your fault and you’re not less than anyone else because you struggle with these things. I hope we can stop saying to ourselves, “I’m restless because I’m an anxious person” and instead say to ourselves, “I have an experience of restlessness because I’m a human being”

And none of this is unnatural. Of course we want to avoid pain. We have survived by avoiding pain. We have survived based on wondering what we can handle. It’s all simply part of life. But the question is can we relate to these hindrances in a better way?

I’m not going to suggest that we can come to a point where we’ll stub our toe and just calmly say, “Pain is entering my body” but I am suggesting that we can notice when these hindrances are arising and try to engage with them and overcome them when they get in our way. Recognizing them is the first step.

=========================================================================

 

Visit my YouTube Channel to hear  Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast The Kansas City Meditation Podcast

 

Posted in buddhism

The Four Foundations of Mindfulness

The Four Foundations of Mindfulness Teaching is based on a talk that was given by the Buddha in the early days. It’s the foundation of what people call Mindfulness/Insight Meditation. The Four Foundations are considered the underlying principles that form the basis of meditation practice.

So, that’s what we’re going to explore here. We’re going to talk about what the Buddha said about Mindfulness and also how we can apply these teachings in our lives.

The thought behind all of this is that we aren’t mindful most of the time. We do very little consciously and often travel through life as if in a daydream. My favorite example of this is when I’m driving to work in the morning and by the time I get there I don’t really remember the trip. I’ve been on autopilot…which sounds very dangerous.

But if we train in mindfulness then we can shift away from that. We can learn how to be more aware in our lives. If we do that then we can meet the world in a more authentic way.

What’s so good about being aware?

Well, if we are more aware of our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions, then we can have more insight into why we do the things we do. With awareness we can see which of our actions come from a good place that benefits ourselves and others and which of our actions come from a bad place. If we know the motivations behind the things we do, then we can make better choices. When we’re acting out of generosity, kindness, and wisdom then our actions are helpful to ourselves and others. When we’re acting out of greed, hatred, and delusion then our actions are harmful to ourselves and others. Mindfulness is what helps us know the difference.

When we’re mindful we can strengthen those good motivations and weaken the bad ones.

This path is fundamentally about suffering less. Mindfulness helps us realize and internalize the idea that these beneficial actions with good motivations lead us to contentment in our day to day life. They also help us progress on the path to Enlightenment. But we’re talking about baby steps here. At the same time, mindfulness can show us that actions that are motivated by greed, hatred, and delusion usually aren’t all that helpful to us.

If we have some mindful awareness then we can have space before we do or say something to ask ourselves, “Is this going to create problems?”

Mindfulness can also help us to notice the changes that are going on in our bodies and minds. Indeed, these changes are happening all the time, especially in our thoughts. We can easily get carried away and not notice the flow of our thoughts and feelings.

We often forget to pay attention because so many things are happening to distract us..I’m not talking about our environment, although that certainly can be distracting. I’m talking about all the things happening in our minds.

When we learn how to pay attention, we can gain a kind of clarity about our lives. We can shift our minds so that we can simply pay attention to the world as it is. There’s a kind of contentment there. In Pali, the Buddha’s language, the word for Mindfulness is Sati, which means “to remember”. We’re being mindful so we can remember the world and our place in it. So we can remember our true nature. So that we can understand that the only place we can find some sense of peace and freedom from suffering is right here, in this moment. Not in some other time or place. It’s with you right now.

 

Mindfulness is rooted in the earliest Buddhist teachings, what I call “First Turning Buddhism”. The Buddha declared to his students that they should train in the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.
“What four?” he was asked.

And the Buddha replied, “Dwell contemplating the body in the body, ardent, clearly comprehending, unified, with concentrated one pointed mind, in order to know the body as it really is. Dwell contemplating feeling in feelings….in order to know feelings as they really are. Dwell contemplating mind in mind….in order to know mind as it really is. Dwell contemplating dhamma in dhammas… in order to know dhammas as they really are.”

The practice of contemplating the four foundations: body, feelings, mind, and phenomena, is recommended for people at every stage of the spiritual path.

By telling us to practice mindfulness of the body, the Buddha is reminding us to see the body not a single solid thing, but as a collection of parts. We are a collection of organs and other body parts that come together to form a whole. We want to learn to see the body as the body, rather than as our self. Like all physical things the body comes into being, is around for a little while, and then is gone. Because of allt he struggles with injury, illness, aging, and death, the body is not a good source of lasting happiness. If mindfulness can help us see the body as temporary and unable to bring us contentment, then we can see the body as it really is.

By telling us to practice mindfulness of feelings, the Buddha is reminding us that, like the body, feelings can be divided. It’s usually said that there are three types of feelings; pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral. Each type is one feeling. At any given moment it’s said that we can only notice one type. We think of feelings in this way to help us cultivate a non-judgmental awareness of them. We want to see our feelings as “my feeling” rather than “me”. Language is powerful here. We say, “I am sad” instead of “I am experiencing sadness.” Why do we do that? Feelings are impermanent because they come and go, sometimes very quickly. Feelings don’t bring lasting happiness because there will always be unpleasant ones. In understanding this we can see feelings as they really are.

The same applies to mindfulness of mind. We talk about the mind as though it’s a single specific thing, but really it’s a collection too. Consciousness arises from our moment to moment awareness of the information that we are perceiving. The mind includes not only consciousness, but also memories and daydreams. It also includes our thought processes, the way one thought leads to another and another. Paying attention to the way thoughts arise and pass away can help us to be less attached to them. If we can be less attached to our thoughts, then we can see the mind as it really is.

By telling us to practice mindfulness of phenomena the Buddha is saying we should be mindful of the world outside of us too. This is where we come to understand that everything follows the same principles. Everything in reality arises, is around for a while, and then passes away. Simply understanding that the world is ephemeral helps us in our practice.

=========================================================================

 

Visit my YouTube Channel to hear  Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast The Kansas City Meditation Podcast

Posted in buddhism, mindfulness

Taking Away From Our Lives

This life right now, in each moment, is all we really have. The past is gone and the future is only potential. We spend so much time not focused on the here and now, but we do have the power to change that.

We have a few ways that we tend to take away from the fullness of our lives. We take away from our lives by sleepwalking, just going through the motions of life without being present or acting with intention. This is where we just let things happen and we don’t really reflect on why we do the things we do. We also take away from the fullness of our lives by wishing. We pretty consistently don’t value where we are. To wish we were somewhere else is to take away from here. To wish to be entertained instead of doing nothing is to take away from doing nothing. There is value in doing nothing.

To give to our lives is to understand “good enough”. We are good enough. What we are doing is good enough. We’re trying to learn how to enter this moment completely without judgment, without hating our experience or wishing for something else.

We lose so much of our lives by dwelling on the past, obsessing about the future, or just wishing really hard that right now was different. But this is where we are. We might imagine our meditation practice taking us to some special place or giving us some magical experience. That’s not what happens. We’re training to be here. That’s it. It is completely ordinary.

When we’re fully present we can learn how to be content.


Want to come meditate with me? I’m at Ubuntu Village Monday nights at 7pm. Meditation Practice, Support, and Encouragement. 4327 Troost, Kansas City, MO.

Visit my YouTube Channel to hear  Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast Scharpening the Mind

Posted in buddhism, meditation

The Three Kinds of Laziness

Laziness is often what stops us from being consistent in our meditation practice. but also from anything else we might do for personal development or self care. Laziness is very common, probably something we all struggle with in one way or another. It’s a powerful force that gets in our way and regularly stops us from working toward our goals.

In Buddhism we sometimes talk about different kinds of laziness. It’s said that laziness comes in 3 different forms. I call them Procrastination, Feeling Unworthy, and Busyness. These are the things that keep us stuck and I think just identifying and being aware of them helps us manage them.

Procrastination is what we normally associate with the word laziness. I want to avoid inconvenience. I’ll do it later. I want to stay in bed. We can come up with all sorts of excuses to avoid doing things. I need to wait for the right time to meditate. I would meditate now but I don’t feel like it today. We’ve all had thoughts like this. You know what happens if you wait until you feel like it to meditate? You just don’t do it. This is all rooted in comfort. If we’re comfortable in the situation we’re in now, then we’re reluctant to change it. This not only stops us from achieving our goals but it also can limit our experience of the world.

Feeling Unworthy is when we don’t try because we feel like we can’t do something. When people find out I teach meditation sometimes they say things like, “I wish I could meditate, but I’m just not stable and calm enough.” It comes from a place of thinking that other people can do it and you can’t. This kind of laziness occurs in all sorts of ways. We might not apply for a promotion because we think we aren’t qualified. Or we might not ask someone out because we think we’re not good enough for them. We might not create art or write because we think we aren’t skilled enough. This is all rooted in hopelessness and ignoring our potential. Whatever the thing is, we should try to do it and see what happens.

Busyness doesn’t seem like a form of laziness at first, so I have to unpack it. There’s one aspect of this that’s an excuse and another aspect that’s sort of true. “I don’t have time to meditate.” “My life is too active.” These are lies. You may not have time to go to meditation classes, but if you have time to breathe, you have time to meditate. We use this for other things too. Anything we do that’s to better ourselves, we can convince ourselves we don’t have time, whether that’s meditation, working out, spending quality time with your family, or whatever else. You have time. But the other aspect is this. We fill our time in unexpected ways. Social media has us glued to our phones and we’d be shocked if we really measured how much time we spend scrolling. Phones are the busyness of our era. We fill our times with scrolling through apps and for most of us it doesn’t even really bring us joy. Most of social media is either boring or frustrating.

We need to remember to make time for self care and personal development. We could all manage our time better. We have to make time for quiet and to be present. So let’s see if we can challenge our laziness.

 


If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

Want to come meditate with me? I’m at HDKC Monday nights at 7pm. Meditation Practice, Support, and Encouragement. 4327 Troost, Kansas City, MO.

Visit my YouTube Channel to hear  Talks!

And go check out my Podcast Scharpening the Mind

Posted in buddhism

Becoming Free

When we really understand ourselves we become free.

The purpose of our meditation practice isn’t to stop thinking or to banish wandering thoughts. It’s to learn how to stop grasping at them. We want to see our thoughts and feelings for what they are, temporary phenomena that are passing through our minds. You are not your thoughts and you are not your feelings. You have thoughts and you have feelings. Thoughts and feelings come and go and they’re always changing. Seeing thoughts and feelings as they are, without attaching to them or being distracted by them, is the essence of meditation. Realizing that thoughts and feelings are fleeting and changing is wisdom.

The truth is our minds don’t have to be dominated by these thoughts and feelings, or by labels, baggage, attachments, or any other names we give to the activity of our minds. The nature of our mind is originally free, just distracted by junk. If we can learn how to get some stability and cultivate freedom in our minds, then we will see things more clearly and we will suffer less. We can only understand ourselves and the world if we learn how to see clearly.
Our suffering depends on how much we wish things were different, our attachment to views and ideas about the world. When we attach to them, we let go of our freedom. If we allow ourselves to be open instead, then we can remain free.

———————————————————————

Want to come meditate with me? I’m at Ubuntu Village Monday nights at 7pm. Meditation Practice, Support, and Encouragement. 4327 Troost, Kansas City, MO.

Visit my YouTube Channel to hear  Talks!

If you’d like to support my work, please consider making a donation.

And go check out my Podcast Scharpening the Mind