Saturday, March 17, 2012

Discourse on Love

Hello All, It is important that zen folks read and familiarize themselves not only with the great Mahayana sutras but also with the Discourse on Love, the Discourse on Happiness, the Discourse on Knowing the Better Way to Live Alone, the Discourse on the Teachings to be Given to the Sick, the Discourse on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness & the Discourse on the Full Awareness of Breathing to name a few. These sutras and others can be found in the Mountain Lamp sutra book and were primarily translated by Thich Nhat Hahn and revised, in some instances, by Mountain Lamp.

Today we are going to look at the opening lines to the Discourse on Love, "Those who want to attain peace...Let them not do anything that will be disapproved of by the wise ones." As we go along, I would encourage you to memorize each section and carry that small section with you throughout the week and put it into action on a daily basis. This is a wonderful opportunity to apply your practice to your a step after step practice is one of the points of this sutra. Each short section, sometimes only a sentence, is not what "they contemplate" 2000 years ago, but what you can contemplate and present today, this week in your own life and in the life of your community.

Those who want to wake-up, practice with an upright attitude both on the inside and out. This is why we move the way we do in the zendo and on the cushion. We sit with our backs straight but relaxed and with our chests soft and open. We sit right in the middle having no need to lean one way or the other. Although our hands in our laps are held in the great-ocean-seal-mudra, our minds touched by the serenity and depth of the great ocean, they are also open, allowing each thing to arise as it needs and to fall away as it will. This is the mind of humility...close to the ground; held by, and in service, to the earth and its many beings.

One of the fruits of this attitude or intention (upright-humble), is the beginning ability to speak compassionately. Because we do not lean one way or another, we do not have to react. We can breathe, we can do one breath mu, we can practice 'who-hears', creating a moment or two of space, and then we can step forward and act with open hands. The supreme Way is not difficult; it precludes picking and choosing, like and dislike, preference and aversion. As we continue our practice of uprightness and humility, our speech begins to blossom and we naturally live more simply. This does not me we aren't busy or engaged but we do let the superfluous fall like leaves from an alder in a late autumn wind. What is necessary remains and what isn't doesn't. All we need do is practice with the intention to wake-up, keeping our hands open and our breasts softened.

Initially our senses may be anything but calmed and that is OK because that is not the point of practice. In fact, it might be better for some to have their senses heightened and sharpened. Often, when we live mindlessly or in a posture of defense or adaptation, our senses are dulled so that we can survive. In early practice, those defensive strategies begin to lessen and our senses grow--the thrush song becomes more beautiful, the quince brighter, the lameness of a horse more poignant, and the too soon death of a friend sad beyond hope. However, all of these are entrance ways to waking-up and should not be avoided.

I have zazenkai this weekend and need to finish up Sunday's teisho now. I will be in Spokane on Thursday for our 4 day retreat so will get to the next section on Friday, the 30th. Take care and see you soon


  1. Yesterday, three of us met and explored this opening of the Discourse on Love. It was a quiet conversation that ranged from equating the precepts with "upright" and importance of compassion in everyday life.

    It seems as though there is nothing to do. That one naturally becomes more and more open to life (compassionate) as time moves. One can not help it.

    Next week we'll be off as many of us, including Jack, will be on retreat.

  2. I read. I commented. I elected to post through google's blogger, and it wiped out my comment. I can't remember what I said. Anyway, I am appreciating this particular topic of study, and have been chanting the Soto version of this for some time--it is so perfect and especially necessary for our time. Enjoy your retreat! (Ever consider doing this on a Facebook page? Less passwords for us to remember...and you can control privacy settings...)

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  4. Hi Laurel,
    Can you please send the soto version of the sutra to me at

    Thank you!

  5. I'm finding a lot of value in practicing and reflecting on this:
    "This does not me we aren't busy or engaged but we do let the superfluous fall like leaves from an alder in a late autumn wind."
    I am finding it good instruction in practicing what it means to be upright - definitely a character flaw of mine! I did some spring cleaning this afternoon and tidied up some of those old leaves.


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