Author Topic: Inspiring! Shoyen Shaku's daily practice  (Read 5682 times)


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Inspiring! Shoyen Shaku's daily practice
« on: February 14, 2013, 10:37:32 AM »
I came across this article on Soyen Shaku, a Zen master that went to America. Here he explains how he lives his life everyday... these principles, although may look very simple and something of common sense... when we look deeper... how many of us actually practice these 8 simple rules?

I know this is not really Vajrayana practice, but if we examine it, the essence of the teachings are the same. I found this principles to lead our daily lives is very inspiring and something that I can practice immediately, to apply to myself and see some form of results quickly.

What do you think? Do you agree with this principle and should we adhere to it daily?


My Heart Burns Like Fire

Soyen Shaku, the first Zen teacher to come to America, said: “My heart burns like fire but my eyes are as cold as dead ashes.” He made the following rules which he practiced every day of his life.

1) In the morning before dressing, light incense and meditate.
2) Retire at a regular hour. Partake of food at regular intervals. Eat with moderation and never to the point of satisfaction.
3) Receive a guest with the same attitude you have when alone. When alone, maintain the same attitude you have in receiving guests.
4) Watch what you say, and whatever you say, practice it.
5)When an opportunity comes do not let it pass by, yet always think twice before acting.
6) Do not regret the past. Look to the future.
7) Have the fearless attitude of a hero and the loving heart of a child.
8) Upon retiring, sleep as if you had entered your last sleep. Upon awakening, leave your bed behind you instantly as if you had cast away a pair of old shoes.

Big Uncle

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Re: Inspiring! Shoyen Shaku's daily practice
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2013, 10:57:05 AM »
Here's another and it is not really a daily routine but a really good advice for all of us to follow as a guideline for everybody, which I particularly relate to it and I have highlighted parts that are particularly relevant to all of us.  :-

When Venerable Atisha came to Tibet he first went to Ngari, where he remained for two years giving many teachings to the disciples of Jangchub Ö.

After two years had passed he decided to return to India, and Jangchub Ö requested him to give one last teaching before he left.

Atisha replied that he had already given them all the advice they needed, but Jangchub Ö persisted in his request and so Atisha accepted and gave the following advice.

How wonderful!

Friends, since you already have great knowledge and clear understanding, whereas I am of no importance and have little wisdom, it is not suitable for you to request advice from me. However because you dear friends, whom I cherish from my heart, have requested me, I shall give you this essential advice from my inferior and childish mind.

Friends, until you attain enlightenment the Spiritual Teacher is indispensable, therefore rely upon the holy Spiritual Guide.

Until you realize ultimate truth, listening is indispensable, therefore listen to the instructions of the Spiritual Guide.

Since you cannot become a Buddha merely by understanding Dharma, practise earnestly with understanding.

Avoid places that disturb your mind, and always remain where your virtues increase.

Until you attain stable realizations, worldly amusements are harmful, therefore abide in a place where there are no such distractions.

Avoid friends who cause you to increase delusions, and rely upon those who increase your virtue. This you should take to heart.

Since there is never a time when worldly activities come to an end, limit your activities.

Dedicate your virtues throughout the day and the night, and always watch your mind.

Because you have received advice, whenever you are not meditating always practise in accordance with what your Spiritual Guide says.

If you practise with great devotion, results will arise immediately, without your having to wait for a long time.

If from your heart you practise in accordance with Dharma, both food and resources will come naturally to hand.

Friends, the things you desire give no more satisfaction than drinking sea water, therefore practise contentment.

Avoid all haughty, conceited, proud, and arrogant minds, and remain peaceful and subdued.

Avoid activities that are said to be meritorious, but which in fact are obstacles to Dharma.

Profit and respect are nooses of the maras, so brush them aside like stones on the path.

Words of praise and fame serve only to beguile us, therefore blow them away as you would blow your nose.

Since the happiness, pleasure, and friends you gather in this life last only for a moment, put them all behind you.

Since future lives last for a very long time, gather up riches to provide for the future.

You will have to depart leaving everything behind, so do not be attached to anything.

Generate compassion for lowly beings, and especially avoid despising or humiliating them.

Have no hatred for enemies, and no attachment for friends.

Do not be jealous of others’ good qualities, but out of admiration adopt them yourself.

Do not look for faults in others, but look for faults in yourself, and purge them like bad blood.

Do not contemplate your own good qualities, but contemplate the good qualities of others, and respect everyone as a servant would.

See all living beings as your father or mother, and love them as if you were their child.

Always keep a smiling face and a loving mind, and speak truthfully without malice.

If you talk too much with little meaning you will make mistakes, therefore speak in moderation, only when necessary.

If you engage in many meaningless activities your virtuous activities will degenerate, therefore stop activities that are not spiritual.

It is completely meaningless to put effort into activities that have no essence.

If the things you desire do not come it is due to karma created long ago, therefore keep a happy and relaxed mind.

Beware, offending a holy being is worse than dying, therefore be honest and straightforward.

Since all the happiness and suffering of this life arise from previous actions, do not blame others.

All happiness comes from the blessings of your Spiritual Guide, therefore always repay his kindness.

Since you cannot tame the minds of others until you have tamed your own, begin by taming your own mind.

Since you will definitely have to depart without the wealth you have accumulated, do not accumulate negativity for the sake of wealth.

Distracting enjoyments have no essence, therefore sincerely practise giving.

Always keep pure moral discipline for it leads to beauty in this life and happiness hereafter.

Since hatred is rife in these impure times, don the armour of patience, free from anger.

You remain in samsara through the power of laziness, therefore ignite the fire of the effort of application.

Since this human life is wasted by indulging in distractions, now is the time to practise concentration.

Being under the influence of wrong views you do not realize the ultimate nature of things, therefore investigate correct meanings.

Friends, there is no happiness in this swamp of samsara, so move to the firm ground of liberation.

Meditate according to the advice of your Spiritual Guide and dry up the river of samsaric suffering.

You should consider this well because it is not just words from the mouth, but sincere advice from the heart.

If you practise like this you will delight me, and you will bring happiness to yourself and others.

I who am ignorant request you to take this advice to heart.

This is the advice that the holy being Venerable Atisha gave to Venerable Jang Chub Ö.

Tenzin K

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Re: Inspiring! Shoyen Shaku's daily practice
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2013, 06:23:51 PM »
History of the 1st Zen Institute of America:
Sokei-an Sasaki, the founder of the First Zen Institute, was the first Zen master to settle permanently in America.

Sokei-an’s roots as a lay practitioner trace back to the founding of the Ryomokyo-kai Zen Institute in 1875 by the Japanese Rinzai Zen master Imakita Kosen. Ryomokyo-kai was dedicated to reviving Zen in Japan by recruiting talented and univerity-educated lay people. Kosen's most celebrated disciple, Soyen Shaku, visited America in 1893 to attend the World's Parliament of Religions in Chicago. In 1905 he returned to America where he lectured and taught briefly. Soyen assigned responsibility for the lay Zen institute Kosen founded to his Dharma heir, Sokatsu Shaku. This group included women and men. Sokei-an was Sokatsu's student and came to America with him in 1906 to establish a Zen community in this country. When Sokatsu returned to Japan in 1910, Sokei-an remained to season his Zen and familiarize himself with the American character. After wandering across America and improving his English, he made several trips back to Japan and received credentials as a lay Zen master from Sokatsu. He became a priest during the 1930's because he felt Americans would not respect a lay person bringing Zen.

Sokei-an described his way of teaching as ‘a direct transmission of Zen from soul to soul.’ In 1930, after attracting a number of students in New York, he founded the First Zen Institute, which was originally incorporated under the name, Buddhist Society of America.

After many productive years of teaching Zen in English, translating and lecturing on important Zen texts, Sokei-an was interned at Ellis Island along with other Japanese during World War II. He died shortly after his release in 1945. The name of the organization he founded was changed to his original choice, the First Zen Institute of America.

Since his death, Sokei-an's student Mary Farkas (1910-1992) and other lay members have volunteered their time to publishing his teachings in Zen Notes and in several books and maintaining the Institute as a place where interested persons can learn more about and practice of Rinzai Zen. During the postwar period, two Zen masters have taught in association with the Institute, Isshu Muira in the early 1960's, and Joshu Sasaki from 1970 to 1987.  For the past seventy-five years, volunteers at the Institute have provided Americans with both an introduction to Rinzai Zen and accurate information on the Zen school's history and practices.


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Re: Inspiring! Shoyen Shaku's daily practice
« Reply #3 on: February 17, 2013, 02:59:42 PM »
Love the 8 rules! Yes, definitely the essence of the teachings are the same. And yes, I can definitely apply it to my daily practice. I love point no 4) Watch what you say, and whatever you say, practice it.
There is no point in teaching and saying things and then we do the opposite.


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Re: Inspiring! Shoyen Shaku's daily practice
« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2013, 09:10:59 AM »
Thank you Q for the 8 principles of Soyen Shaku, and thank you Big Uncle for the advice and teachings of Venerable Atisha.

I find both the posts most inspiring .
Soyen Shaku's principles are very down to earth and common sense,  and yet we need reminders to put them into practice.
Venerable Atisha's teachings are beautiful and is so closely related to what Buddha had taught, and we need to work hard to fully ingrain into us and apply these teachings into our daily lives.

We need and must incorporate these teachings into our very being so much so, that it becomes our second nature, to be better people and better Buddhists.