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Hit the road. May 7, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in Reiki, Reiki wisdom.
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“As the Buddha was fond of saying, the spiritual teacher only points the way; we must do our own travelling.”

—Sri Eknath Easwaran, Words to Live By

This is such a valuable lesson. Spiritual teachers, including Reiki teachers, can set our feet upon the path, but it’s up to us to find our own Reiki Way rather than clinging to our teacher(s) for continual guidance. Usui Founder, himself a Buddhist, was very aware of this, and he sent the students he felt were ready, such as Chujiro Hayashi Sensei, out into the world to find their own Way and transmit it to others, as he himself had done after his momentous satori (enlightenment) experience on Mount Kurama.

There is a beautiful story in the movie “Zen” about how Dogen Zenji, the 13th-century founder of the foremost Zen school, Soto Zen, is asked to come to the rescue of the leader of Japan, who’s suffering from a nervous breakdown because of all the horrible deaths he’s inflicted on his enemies. Dogen agrees, because he, like the lord who asked him, is convinced that all Japan will disintegrate into chaos if this ruler can’t keep his grip on the reigns of rule.

After arriving, Dogen asks the ruler if he can cut up the reflection of the moon in the water outside his castle. Well of course I can, the ruler replies, grabbing his sword and hacking into the water. The image of the moon splits in half. But, even as the ruler is smirking in triumph, the ripples his sword made in the water calm, and the image of the moon reforms, whole and pristine as ever.

The ruler realizes that Dogen is pointing the way, and begs him to stay and continue to teach him. But Dogen knows his work lies back at his modest monastery far away, so he resists all the ruler’s promises of vast wealth and influence and a huge monastery and goes his way. As he departs, the ruler recites one of Dogen’s own poems, proving that he, too, is ready to do his own travelling.

Did the ruler stay in touch with Dogen? The film doesn’t say, though it shows all of his closest disciples finding their own and varied Ways after his death. Should we stay in touch with our Reiki teachers? Absolutely. Should we find our own Way? Absolutely. Are these things incompatible? Absolutely not. The spiritual teacher sets our feet on the path, but we are the ones who have to walk it.

Just for today, keep walking.


Making “Reiki.” April 29, 2014

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Every time I watch the beautiful, even stunning, movie “Zen,” about the life of Dogen Zenji, the 13th-century Zen Master and founder of Soto Zen—the Zen we all think of when we think of Zen today worldwide—I wish someone would make a movie called “Reiki” about the life of our Founder, Mikao Usui. “Zen” is so visually rich; it conveys so much through imagery. What a man, and what a story!

Yet Usui Founder’s story is equally deep and rich, with many, many elements, from his family’s samurai origins to his prosperous upbringing thanks to the family sake brewery to his unquenchable thirst for knowledge, his numerous attempts to find a job that suited him, his wife and children, his travels, his religious studies, and his discovery and development of Reiki. And all of this set in turbulent times: Mikao Usui was born under the Shogunate, the high flowering of Samurai culture, when Japan was closed to all outside contact. (If you’ve seen the series “Shogun,” or any films set during that era, you’ll know whereof I speak.) Then the Meiji Emperor took back control from the samurai and opened Japan to the West, enjoying and embracing aspects of Western culture, a move Usui Founder wholeheartedly supported. And he survived the terrible earthquake and fires that leveled much of Tokyo in the 1920s, healing thousands with Reiki in the process.

I can see an absolutely gorgeous, moving film along the lines of “Zen” documenting and celebrating Mikao Usui’s life. I wish I could afford to find the fabulous Japanese crew who made “Zen,” hire them to make “Reiki,” and bring Hyakuten Inamoto Sensei, the founder of Komyo Reiki, the Reiki of Enlightenment, on board as script and set advisor. What a wonderful film it would be!

It’s true that nobody knows more than the details of Dogen’s life, yet that didn’t keep them from reimagining it from his extensive writings into a fabulous movie. In Usui Founder’s case, there were no writings—perhaps he didn’t think they were important, or perhaps he planned to write later in life, not foreseeing his own foreshortened life—so his life and work is preserved through his disciples, his students, as the Lord Jesus’s and the Lord Buddha’s were through theirs. In every case, those who came after found something worth preserving, something worth passing on, and in every case, they linked that back to their Founder, the one whose words, whose actions, whose promises they’d believed.

I cannot think of a single quote of Usui Founder’s that has been passed down to posterity. There are no parables, no stories, no directives, no pointed one-liners. Not even a memorable witticism, such as Saint John XXIII’s famous remark when asked by a journalist how many people worked in the Vatican, “About half of them.” The closest we can come to the mind of Usui Founder is in his actions and in the Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals) he gave us for right health, right happiness, and right livelihood.

His photo is here before me as I type. I wish I could hear his voice. I wish I could see a beautiful movie of his life and rest in it as I rest in “Zen.”

Just for today, practice the Principles.

The heron, the grass, and the snow. April 26, 2014

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“In a snowfall that covers the winter grass a white heron uses his own whiteness to disappear.”

—Dogen Zenji

I don’t know what Dogen was implying by this, but the images are so beautiful and striking—the white heron against the lush green grass, and the white heron disappearing into the whiteness of the snow-covered grass—that I wanted to share this quote with you.

Dogen, the 13th-century Japanese founder of Soto Zen, the kind of Zen practice most people mean when they talk about “Zen” today, was persecuted in his own day by the abbots and warrior-monks of established Buddhist monasteries, who believed that his radical practice of Zen was a threat to their supremacy and revenues. His practice involved zazen, sitting meditation, and shikantaza, “just sitting.” There were no esoteric practices, no secrets, just sitting. This meant that anyone and everyone could practice zazen, hardly good news to the orders that extracted fees from their followers so the monks could intervene for them on some arcane plane.

Perhaps as a result he was more aware than most of the virtues of disappearing, of blending into the background. Or perhaps he was also simply struck by the contrasting images of a white heron on a green background and a white heron vanishing into a white field.

Just for today, see the beauty around you.

What is a saint? April 25, 2014

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“The true saint goes in and out amongst the people and eats and sleeps with them and buys and sells in the market and marries and takes part in social intercourse, and never forgets God for a single moment.”

—Abu Sa’id

“How good it is for us when the Lord unsettles our lukewarm and superficial lives.”

—Pope Francis, @Pontifex

“We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.”

—Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God

“The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees before the Blessed Sacrament.”

—Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God

“When [13th-century Zen Master] Dogen asked the Zen cook in the Chinese temple why he didn’t have his assistants do the hard work of drying mushrooms in the hot sun, the cook said, ‘I am not other people.’ In the same way, we have to realize that this life is the only life we have. It’s ours, right now. If we don’t do the cooking ourselves, we are throwing our life away. ‘Keep your eyes open,’ Dogen instructs. ‘Wash the rice thoroughly, put it in the pot, light the fire, and cook it.’… When we cook—and live—with this kind of attention, the most ordinary acts and the humblest ingredients are revealed as they truly are.”

—Bernard Glassman and Rick Fields, “Instructions to the Cook: A Zen Master’s Lessons for Living a Life that Matters,” tricycle

As I’m sure you know, two popes are going to be canonized (recognized as saints) this weekend. It’s unlikely that any of us will become popes, but, as these quotes show, we all have the opportunity to become saints, right where we are.

Just for today, don’t burn the rice.