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Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo


The Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo, or Life Prolonging Ten Line Kannon Sutra, is a part of the Sunday morning service at the zendo I attend, and it is my favorite chant.  It goes like this:

Kan ze on (Kanzeon!)
Na mu butsu (Veneration to the Buddha!)
Yo butsu u in (With Buddha I have origin;)
Yo butsu u en (With Buddha I have affinity;)
Bu po so en (Affinity with Buddha, Dharma, Sangha;)
Jo raku ga jo (Constancy, joy, self, and purity;)
Cho nen kanzeon (Mornings my thought is Kanzeon;)
Bo nen kanzeon (Evenings my thought is Kanzeon;)
Nen nen ju shin ki (Thought after thought arises in mind.)
Nen nen fu ri shin (Thought after thought is not separate from mind.)1

We say it many times, increasing the tempo from crawling to racing.  By the last recitation, we are screaming it.  After the last three syllables are draw out, we roar mightily and then sit still and silent.  It really is quite a dramatic and beautiful chant.  The story goes that a criminal in China, Kao-huang, was sentenced to death and was about to be executed, when Kannon, the bodhisattva of compassion, visited him in his meditation.  He told Kao-huang to recite this sutra one thousand times before the dawn broke on his execution morning.  He did as he was told and was miraculously spared and pardoned by the authorities.  It’s quite a fantastic way to illustrate the power of compassion, and tells of the desperation that sometimes visits us in life.

1Trans. Robert Aitken

Four Noble Truths, Part I


This is suffering, This is what causes suffering, This is the cessation of suffering, This is the path which leads to the cessation of suffering.1

In this post, I’ll be talking briefly about what many scholars believe to be the central point of Buddhist philosophy and religious activity: the four noble truths.

It is said that the Buddha gained enlightenment after realizing these four truths, which can be understood as the method to the realization of suffering and the method to end suffering. The preceding summary of the four noble truths is from Gishin Tokiwa, who expounds further: “The subject of the Four Noble Truths is always ‘this.’ …I am suffering from ‘this’- from what I am and from what the world is, which constitutes what I am. In its ultimate sense, all the suffering that takes place in this world is ‘my’ suffering. That is why this is suffering.”2 Tokiwa accents the pervasive nature of suffering and implies that the very same ubiquitousness is also its solution, and so I think Tokiwa’s explanation is typical of what one is likely to hear of the essence of the four noble truths; the causes and end of suffering are as knowable as suffering itself, and suffering and peace come from the same place: ‘this place.’

I will continue this post, and likely series of posts, by describing each of the four truths in detail.
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Series: Destructive Emotions II


In the first post of this series, I discussed the first chapter of Destructive Emotions, where narrator Goleman discusses a series of neurological tests performed on a high level lama.  As I think more about the general goal of this website, I realize that I should take a break from this series to focus on more historical matters, while perhaps leaving cultural and philosophical encounters between East and West for a time where I am more prepared to talk about them.  So consider this series on indefinite hold.  The next post will be about the most foundational of Buddhist doctrines, the Four Noble Truths.

Series: Zen Lessons


Calamity can produce fortune,  fortune can produce calamity.1

In this series, I’ll be talking about a book called Zen Lessons, translated by Thomas Cleary.  I think Cleary’s translation of the title is pretty boring, and also a little misleading.  Although synonymous, Zen is a Japanization of the Chinese Ch’an (which in turn is an adaptation of the Sanskrit dhyāna, meaning ‘meditation’).  All of the lessons in this anthology originate from China, so I think that Ch’an Lessons would be more appropriate.  However, it’s probably the case that nobody would recognize Ch’an, whereas Zen is a commonly seen phrase in Dwell magazine and the towel section of Bed, Bath, & Beyond, and so is pretty well assimilated into the American vernacular.  And to further illustrate how cool this book’s title could have been, have a look at the Chinese pronunciations: Chanlin baoxun or Chanmen baoxun.  Beat that, you slimy ad-mongers!

Rather than lamenting the soulless re-appropriation of profound spiritual lineages by multinational toilet corporations, we’ll start off this series talking about the history and goals of this volume and then we’ll explore how the content relates to both of them.

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Series: Destructive Emotions I


These wise people, meditative, persevering, always possessed of strong powers, attain to Nirvana, the highest happiness.1

As an inaugural post, I’ll begin a series on the book Destructive Emotions: How Can We Overcome Them? narrated by Daniel Goleman.  This book is a transcription of the events from the 9th Mind and Life Conference (this year saw the 20th meeting), whose goal it was to determine the extent to which the brain and mind can be trained to bring an end to or transform destructive emotions.  I won’t bore you with a detailed play-by-play, but I’ll try to touch on the major themes brought up in this dialogue between Western psychological thought and Eastern, specifically Buddhist, psychological theory.

Now, this is not a new book, so I’m not claiming to be touching on any new ground here, but it is new for me, and is something I want to add to that squishy library called my “brain.”  I’m writing here to solidify my understanding of what I’ve learned and to keep track of it for my metaphorical book depository… and perhaps a graduate school admissions board?  We’ll see.

Next time I’ll be talking about some basic Buddhist doctrine and the nature of mind, but for now let’s begin with the first chapter.  It is pretty detail oriented, so the descriptions might be tedious.  But it’s good stuff, so stick with it.

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