There are a few good posts up that I want to highlight for you all. First off, over at the blog of our sangha's head teacher is a post about form and Zen practice. We have been doing a lot of reflecting as a community over the past few years about form, particularly what ritual looks like within a lay practice context. I have written about all of this before, but wanted to share the following words of our teacher:
Precision can easily be usurped by the “manas” or our self-centered consciousness that wants to be the best, be more evolved, to be better than other practitioners. When precision becomes a project it has been taken over by ego-building consciousness.
Perfectionism is the devil in disguise. Outwardly, because of our highly choreographed form, a newcomer can interpret zen’s goal as being perfect in the form. This can become oppressive and obsessive. I would like to see a form coming out of our expression of generosity, inter-being, and spaciousness.
I'm guessing anyone who has spent any significant time practicing in a Zen center or community has probably gotten caught up in trying to do meditation perfectly, bow perfectly, and chant perfectly. This kind of thing is even more common amongst those of us who have done longer forms of practice, like meditation retreats, where there are numerous forms in place that can be co-opted by the self-centered mind. I kind of snicker now when I think back to the attempts I made to wash dishes in a "perfectly Zen way" on my first retreat. The anxiety was so intense at one point that I nearly passed out. Pretty ridiculous, isn't it?
Anyway, head over and read the rest of Byakuren's blog post, and feel free to add comments here (she doesn't have a comments section on her blog).
Over at Barbara's Buddhism blog is a post about rebirth and the population growth. Given how often people, even many practicing Buddhists, are muddled about what rebirth means, I enjoyed the following lines from Barbara's post:
Since rebirth in Buddhism really isn't about the continuation of an individual self, I'd say the answer to the question is "yes." And if you want to know how, stop looking for "extraordinary evidence" and educate yourself as to what Buddhism actually teaches about rebirth. To me, looking for a one-to-one ratio of reborn individuals is like assuming there can be only a fixed number of waves on the ocean.
I don't know exactly what rebirth is, nor how (or if) it actually happens, but I find the reductionist efforts of folks like Stephen Batchelor to "rid Buddhism" of such concepts tedious at best. Life is still full of mystery, even if we are able to "explain" more now than our ancestors could.
*I took the photo above at our Occupy MN site this afternoon.