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Root of Friendship

It had become clear to me that my understanding of friendship is damaged. As a child, I desperately wanted someone to spend time with, someone who would understand me. I was rejected by most of my peers for being too weird. I pled with my parents to give me a sibling. I had a dog that I lived so much that his death was so crushing that I never fully recovered.

I eventually became a battered wife when it came to friendships; I accepted anything that resembled friendship without regard to the consequences. I endured any and every abuse in the name of having a friend. Today, I push everyone away from me out of fear. Fear that I will again be subjected to abuses in the name of friendship. I short, I'm afraid of friendship. This is ironic when I think of my dharma name, "ShoYu".

"Sho" derives from something being "genuine" or "authentic". "Yu" derives from "friend". So, my dharma name espouses me to be a genuine friend, a challenge for someone with my baggage.

The 2nd Most Important Day of Your Life

Currently Reading:
Instructions to the Cook
By: Bernie Glassman
Instructions to the Cook, by Bernie Glassman

Book sale proceeds to go the Zen Peacemakers Foundation and Vista Zen Center


The End of the Wait

My Grandfather had been in a nursing home following a stroke for nearly 2 years, so when my Mom called me to let me know that the hospice nurse said Grandpa was going to die within 48 hours, it came as no surprise. What I did not expect was the immediate and singular focus on the thought that I had to fly out to see Grandpa immediately.

By that time I had been speaking about Grandpa in the past tense for nearly a year. Grandpa's mind was more or less not really there. He would smile at people and talk with them briefly, but we suspect that he didn't actually recognized them. So, in my mind, I had already said "good bye" and the only thing that remained of him was the body in which he used to live. I told myself that I needed to support my family, but I knew that was only 50% true.

The truth was that I wanted to support my family AND experience my Grandfather's death with him. The reasons for the importance of the former is pretty self evident, so I'll focus my introspection on the latter.


Sharing Death

I'm still not completely sure why it felt so important for me to want to share my Grandfather's death. It was not morbid fascination (although I would be lying if I said there wasn't a little bit of that) as much as it felt like a sacred space.

In life, we have major milestones that become the points of focus and important for family to share. Among them are Birth, Marriage, Graduation and Death. In fact, it could be said that death is the 2nd most important day in a person's life, following birth. Birth and death are the 2 milestones that everyone shares, and they are the ultimate milestones. No other milestone is as dramatic and changing as the beginning and the end of life.

For 3 days I quietly sat next to my Grandfather's bed. I did a little bit of reading and chatting with family, but by and large I quietly sat in meditation. My Grandfather was a man who preferred silence to idle chatter, so we used to often quitely sat together and simply share space. I saw my vigil as being no different than the times we used to spend together quietly taking in the world around us. My days of vigil felt "right". I'm not sure what anyone else thought of my silent presence, but I felt like my meditation was the best way to express myself and share my Grandfather's brief remaining time. Even thinking about it now, 8 days after his death, I feel utterly joyous and privileged for that time at his bed side. If I had not been there, I think it would have become one of my great regrets.


ShoYu 正友



Did the Buddha Teach Reincarnation?

Currently Reading:
Tipitaka (Pali Canon)


Zen Style Answer

Yes and no. I admit, that's a wise-ass Zen style answer, but it's also the answer that seems to be supported by the text. The first, and foremost of the Long Discourses (Digha Nikaya) is the Brahmajāla Sutta. Since the Brahmajāla Sutta is the first book of the Digha Nikaya, it is commonly notated as DN 1.


Brahmajāla Sutta (DN 1)

What's fascinating about the Brahmajāla Sutta is that it is the first discourse and it is essentially a list of things Shakyamuni Buddha says that he does, does not do and will not teach. It is a means of differentiating himself from all of the other spititual schools and teachers of his time. Here is a short list of things that the Buddha abstained from:

  • Killing
  • Stealing
  • Sexual contact
  • Lying
  • Slander
  • Using harsh words
  • Idle chatter
  • Soothsaying
  • Astrology
  • and a long list of things from which monks are expected to abstain ...


Here's a short list of things the Buddha said he will not teach or claim any knowledge of:

  • Knowledge of past lives (DN 1:31)
  • Knowlege of the universe and self being eternal (DN 1:31)
  • Knowlege of the universe and self being partly eternal and partly non-eternal (DN 1:38)
  • Endless equivocation (DN 1:61)
  • Fortuitous origination (DN 1:67)
  • Speculations about the future (DN 1:74)
  • Knowledge of immortality (permanent self, soul, etc.) (DN 1:75)
  • Knowledge of whether death is permanent (DN 1:84)
  • Nirvana (Nibbāna) here and now (DN 1:93)


What's My Point?

In this first Sutta of the Pali Canon, the Buddha clearly states that he has no knowledge and/or will not teach about subjects pertaining to past lives, the existence of a permanent self or soul (atman). How can a teacher who is claimed by so many to have taught reincarnation say so when that teacher clearly states at the very beginning that he will not teach those subjects? In fact, the very teaching of reincarnation completely flies in the face of the Buddha's most basic teaching; that there is no permanent self (anatman). If there is no permanent self, how can reincarnation possibly occur?

Here's the problem though, the Buddha does teach reincarnation in other parts of the Pali Canon, particularly the Jakata Tales. Now, in all fairness, the Jakata Tales should not be taken as teachings of the Buddha, or at least not literal teachings. Reason being, the Jakata Tales were stories that had already been around for quite some time and they were adopted by Buddhists much in the way Christians adopted the trappings of other religions in their area such as Christmas trees and Easter eggs.

So what did the Buddha really teach? Honestly, I am beginning to doubt that the Buddha was a single individual that existed or at the very least, he was a teacher who had a great many words put into his mouth.

Does that change anything? Not really. Why should it? As with all other religions and philosophies, each of us will pick and choose what we like best. After all, someone who claimed to be Shakyamuni Buddha told us that we should not believe him, and that we should test his teachings. A spiritual teacher who encourages his students to use the scientific method on this teachings?! For me, it doesn't get more awesome than that!


ShoYu 正友


Study Course

Currently Reading:
Tipitaka (Pali Canon)

New Beginning and a New Name

I've decided to re-open this journal after several years, because I think it will be a useful place to note my thoughts as I continue my study into true nature. Nearly 1 year ago I undertook a lay-ordination in Zen Buddhism that is referred to as Jukai, which means "taking the precepts". This means that I have taken a public vow to live by the precepts in the Zen tradition, and I have a name that has been given to me, which is now the name of this blog.

ShoYu 正友

My name is a Japanese homonym for "soy sauce" (which is always good for a laugh when I meet someone who understand Japanese), but the kanji that is used actually means "authentic friend". The long way of saying it is "Sho:shin-mei:no Yu:jin". I think ShoYu will do though.

Starting at the Beginning

Having been a student of Zen for several years, I've often said that I'd like to go back to the beginning and work my way forward. I have now begun acting out that plan and will continue along the following study course:
  • Tipitaka (Pali Canon)
  • Nagarjuna
  • Bodhidharma
  • Chinese Chán Masters
  • Dogen Zenji
  • Japanese Zen Masters
  • White Plum Teachers
Each piece of this study course will probably take around 1 year to complete, which will make this program around 7 years in length.

ShoYu 正友

More on Acceptance

Currently Reading:
The Heart of Meditation
by Swami Durgananda

Accidental Advice:
I was off-handedly told something today that was more insightful then the person who said it may have realized. "You know, if you opened your mouth 1/4 as much as you do now, you would be the kind of person that when you spoke, others would stop what they were doing and quietly listen."

At first my reaction was something like, "Yeah, and f*ck you too," through some giggling.

Be Cool:
Later I got to thinking about it, and wondered, "Why all the nervous conversation that leads to me saying asinine things?" I wasn't cool. What is cool, but a practice of acceptance.


"Much of the suffering in the world comes from the illusion that we are separate from one another." - Shakyamuni Buddha

"Those who dance are considered insane by those who can't hear the music." - George Carlin