Mud Lotus: Living by Vow

Living by vow, silently sitting
Sixty-three years
Plum blossoms begin to bloom
The jeweled mirror reflects truth as it is.

—Katagiri Roshi (1928-1990), written shortly before his death

What is the reason you wake up each morning? What guidelines show you the way when you’re confronted with difficult decisions?

In Buddhism, one’s foundational purpose is practiced and developed through the tool of the vow. Zen teacher, Hogen Bays defines a vow as a “heart’s deepest aspiration.”

A vow defines our purpose and our goals. Without purpose, we live on “autopilot” allowing habits and conditioning to take us from one moment to another. Without a sense of meaning and direction, our energy can be scattered and wasted.

A vow can be short-term, like the commitment to stay by a friend at the hospital until they get the news about a loved one. A vow can several years, like the commitment to stay in school until finishing a degree. It can be ongoing throughout life, like the commitment not to harm others or to preserve one’s integrity in relationships through honesty. A vow can even continue over lifetimes. It can be the thread that connects one generation to another, one life to another.

In the Mahayana tradition, the greatest vow is the bodhisattva vow: the vow to awaken oneself and help all others to awaken with us—to become a buddha together with all beings. This vow is vast, even infinite. On the way, we might make other promises to ourselves such taking up the commitments defined in the traditional Five Precepts. Or, we might use other words to guide us along the way.

What is your vow?

Lead by Seth (Sara is out of town), this Sunday is an opportunity to slow down and cultivate clarity. It’s an invitation to reflect on the intentions that structure our lives and a time to consider our life’s deeper purposes.

Please join us!

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Mud Lotus: Starting Fresh

The germ of change is always present in our life.

In our wisdom, we might see that we’re caught in a pattern that doesn’t serve us. Turning our wheels in the mud without getting anywhere or going fast in the wrong direction, it’s time to start afresh and try something new.

Practicing stillness we can clean up old patterns and create a clean slate for a more intentional life. Tuning subtlety and staying on the new path can have a profound cumulative effect. A small pivot and a wheel will begin to roll in a whole new direction and over time find itself in a different place.

To begin again it takes honesty and a gentleness. The opportunity to change appears when we recognize how we’ve harmed ourselves and others with our thoughts and actions. In order to fully leave behind an old pattern, we must look at ourselves boldly, identify the root causes, seeing the reality of our own suffering, and the particular shape it takes. The early Buddhists called this “dukkha”—the experience of suffering (literally, a wheel out of its axis). A kind of brokenness, we must attend to the painful places of dukkha where an unhinged wheel rolls us where we don’t want to go.

The intention to start afresh is what many traditions enact in rituals of baptism. In Buddhism, it often takes the form of a “renewal of vows.” These vows are the promises we keep for the benefit of ourselves and others. Plum Village tradition, teaches a practice called “beginning anew” intended to help two people to clear the air and start over together.

This Sunday, we will reflect on our intentions for change and water the seeds of our new beginnings.

Please join us. 🙏🏽

*Featured Image is “Red Moss” from the Wikimedia Commons

Mud Lotus: Wordlessness

Mud Lotus: Wordlessness

 

Sunday, June 10th, 10 AM – 12 PM
ILLIO, 13 E Tulane Rd, Columbus, Ohio 43202

The way that can be told is not the eternal Way.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and Earth.
-Tao Te Ching
It is said that the Buddha once gave a sermon without a single word. Raising a flower to his students, Shakyamuni Buddha saw a smile cross the face of Mahakashyapa and he knew at least one in the audience understood.
How can a raised flower teach a whole sermon? A raised flower might communicate better than any other method because not everything that can be known, can be explained with language. 
In the Zen tradition, it is said that words are like “a finger pointing at the moon.” They may lead us into direct experience with something real but are not the experience itself. Because of this, the Buddha taught in whatever language or idiom might best bring students into connection with their own truth. It is said he taught with “skillful means” adapting the message to bring the listener into a direct experience of reality.
As students of the mystery, we can look for truth everywhere, not just in the words of great teachers. As Zen-master Dogen observed, “Some have entered into the stream of the Buddha’s truth at the invitation of grass, flowers, mountains, and rivers. Some have received and maintained the stamp of Buddha by grasping soil, stones, sand, and pebbles. …the turning of the great Dharma wheel is contained in every molecule” (Shobogenzo, Ch. 1).
What can be known that cannot be said?
What can be spoken aloud about that which is beyond words?
Join us this Sunday to listen to the wordless voice of the universe, together.

 

*Featured image: Yosemite’s “Tunnel View” from photographer Mike Lee.

Mud Lotus: Unconditional

Sunday, May 13th, at 10 AM – 12 PM
ILLIO Studio, 13 E Tulane Rd, Columbus, Ohio 43202

scenic-view-of-the-klamath-river-flowing-through-a-valley.jpgMindfulness meditation is the practice of being present with whatever is, observing it arise, and letting it pass. This practice of “equanimity” is an essential part of real care for one another. It is the “unconditional” part of unconditional love and it forms the basis of living spiritually in the world.

LIke a river that rests in a constant state of motion, we can learn to accept without judgment our own state of constant transformation and development.

The paradox of love is that when we accept others just as they are we give them the room to grow. In the same way, when we really love ourselves without judgment, we give ourselves the permission to develop better transform into the person we would like to become.

The same paradox exists in the fact that we must accept that some things in life are “unacceptable.” In the face of great tragedy, it is difficult to be with things as they are. When a person we love is gone or when our life fundamentally changes for the worse, it isn’t possible to return to the way things were before. Practicing equanimity doesn’t mean acting as if nothing has changed or forgetting the past. Rather, it means accepting our grief, accepting the presence of our loss, accepting the mark that the past leaves on us in every lingering joyful and painful memory. Equanimity means accepting that some things will never return to normal. The paradox of practice is that real healing can only occur when the acceptance of the unacceptable is real.

Please join us in the experience of acceptance together.

The Mud Lotus Sunday session meets for 2 hours every 2nd and 4th Sunday. We have brief introductions and a Dharma talk and sit in meditation for about 40-minutes total (periods divided by walking meditation). We finish with listening and sharing with one another in Dharma sharing.

There is no cost to attend. Donations warmly accepted.

The Mud Lotus project is anchored by Sara and Seth and involving many people. It was founded to promote stillness, belonging, and engagement in ourselves and in the world. We believe meditation practice should be accessible to everyone, all bodies, body types, and abilities. Folks can stay 5 minutes or the whole time and adjust themselves in whatever way best supports their practice. We welcome folks of all religions, races, sexualities, and gender identities. Please let us know if there is something we can do to support your practice.

Mud Lotus also meets for a regular morning meditation, every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, 8:00 am, at ILLIO, 13 E. Tulane, 43202.

Media

Find my 2018 talk on Buddhism and Veganism on the Columbus Veg Community YouTube channel

I was interviewed in 2018 by Ria Greiff for the radio-show/podcast You Inc. to talk about “Awareness.” Find a short video clip of the interview at “You Inc. Tool Awareness with Seth Josephson .”   The audio was edited into two parts for YouInc.’s podcast at the You Inc. iTunes feed. Find me on episodes 50 and 51. Note: Blue Cliff monastery, where regularly attend retreats is in New York, not Massachusetts! I’m not sure why I said that. Otherwise, everything I say on the episode is fully factual.

 

Mud Lotus: Staying in Contact

Sunday, April 4th, 2018, 10:00 am – 12:00.

ILLIO, 13 E Tulance, Columbus Ohio, 43202

 

Real love is not only wishing well to others. Real love requires staying in contact with those in the most pain–even if there is nothing we can do to help them.

“The essence of love and compassion is understanding, the ability to recognize the physical, material, and psychological suffering of others, to put ourselves, ‘inside the skin of’ the other…and witness for ourselves their suffering. Shallow observation as an outsider is not enough to see their suffering… When we are in contact with another’s suffering, a feeling of compassion is born in us.” (Thich Nhat Hanh)

Practicing meditation can be very beneficial for the individual practitioner. It can increase concentration, ease, and emotional stability. But, if meditation is used to only improve one’s ability to earn money or gain prestige one has not touched its true purpose.
The right practice of meditation also generates an energy of sisterhood and brotherhood. It can create in us a willingness to care for others.

This month and next Mud Lotus Sangha’s Sunday sessions are exploring the four aspects of love (loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity). This Sunday we will consider compassion (karuna): being with the suffering of others.

Join this Sunday for meditation and reflection.

The Mud Lotus Sunday session meets for 2 hours every 2nd and 4th Sundays. We typically have brief introductions and a Dharma talk and sit in meditation for about 40-minutes total (periods divided by walking meditation). We finish with listening and sharing with one another in Dharma sharing.

There is no cost to attend. Donations warmly accepted.

The Mud Lotus project is anchored by Sara and Seth and involving many people. It was founded to promote stillness, belonging, and engagement in ourselves and in the world. We believe meditation practice should be accessible to everyone, all bodies, body types, and abilities. Folks can stay 5 minutes or the whole time and adjust themselves in whatever way best supports their practice. We welcome folks of all religions, races, sexualities, and gender identities. Please let us know if there is something we can do to support your practice.

Mud Lotus also meets for a regular morning meditation, every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, 8:00 am, at ILLIO, 13 E. Tulane, 43202.

*Event image: Three-legged-pig, Erika, is comforted by the dog, Panda, at the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand. A beautiful example of interspecies friendship. https://www.facebook.com/phuketelephantsanctuary/posts/1471838559596360

Vegan Dharma

Some years ago I wrote an essay for the Buddhist Peace Fellowship on my Vegan Buddhist perspective. Some of the biographical details are no longer accurate (I’m not involved with Pattycake Bakery anymore, for example, although Pattycake continues to be a premier dessert bakery in C-bus and is now a worker-owned cooperative), but the core message still rings true.

Check it out: http://www.buddhistpeacefellowship.org/triple-feature-friday/

-Seth