By Suma Varughese June 2004 The search for enlightenment is what drives us, consciously or unconsciously. however, finding the right path is no easy matter for it has to suit our inclination, interest and temperament. while we can’t promise you a custom-made path, we give you the next best alternative—a compilation of 100 paths including 59 formal paths and 41 readers’ experiences to pick and choose from. happy seeking! ZenZen is a system of Buddhist meditation that was adopted in Japan from about 1200 AD. It has evolved from the Indian dhyan or Chinese ch’an, and represents a blend of eastern mystical philosophies cultivated as a living tradition in the unique Japanese way of life. D.T. Suzuki, the earliest proponent of Zen in the West, defines Zen as a discipline of enlightenment, stating that everybody has the potential of awakening the Buddha and his teaching. This experience of awakening is called satori, which transcends thought. Zen is free of any creed, dogma or doctrine, and this freedom from fixed belief renders it truly spiritual. Zen masters have devised a way of transmitting their teachings non-verbally through the device of completely nonsensical riddles called koans, which dramatically convey the limitations of logic and reasoning in mystical practice. Their irrational wording and paradoxical content make it impossible to solve them by thinking. They are designed to precisely stop the thought process and thus to make the student ready for the non-verbal experience of reality. Zen practice is mainly built around focusing the mind on the breath, a movement, or on an unchanging landscape such as a blank, white wall. The greatest importance is attached to zazen, or the sitting meditation, involving the correct posture and breathing to prepare the intuitive mind for the handling of the koan. This itself is seen as the active realisation of one’s Buddha nature; body and mind being fused into a harmonious unity. Zen upsets all previous groundwork and leads to acquiring a new viewpoint that looks into the essence of things. It involves training the mind to become a perfect void with no thoughts in it. Its attainment marks a turning point in one’s life. An important characteristic of Zen is that there is absolute freedom, even from God. According to Suzuki, the characteristics of satori include irrationality, intuitive insight, authoritativeness, affirmation, sense of the Beyond, impersonal tone, feeling of exaltation and momentariness. Enlightenment occurs in everyday affairs. Zen has enormous influence on the traditional Japanese way of life, including painting, calligraphy, gardening, serving tea, arranging flowers and martial arts. There is spontaneity, simplicity and total presence of mind. It involves not only perfection of technique, but real mastery, so that technique is transcended and the effort becomes an ‘artless art’ growing out of the unconscious. Eugen Herrigel’s Zen and the Art of Archery is a modern classic on this subject. Vajrayana BuddhismVajrayana is probably the school of Buddhism that would seem, to a casual observer, to be most far removed from the original teaching of the Buddha. Literally ‘the diamond vehicle’, it is responsible for the incorporation of tantric practices into the Buddhist path. Speculated to have emerged out of Mahayana and tantric influences in Northwest India, from where it spread to Tibet and China and Japan, today it is mainly practised in Tibet. Vajrayana’s uniqueness is in its ‘fast path’ to Buddhahood, that enables a person to reach nirvana in one’s present lifetime. This is unlike Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism, both of which propagate a long and arduous path of meditation, with awareness and compassion, spread over innumerable lifetimes, before liberation can be attained. Though it accepts the basic tenets of Buddhism and shares the same goal, Vajrayana includes various multiple deities, symbols, visualisations and complicated rituals, due to which it is known as the esoteric form of Buddhism. Mantras, mudras and mandalas (cosmic diagrams) form an integral part of the practice that is sometimes supposed to develop magic powers in the practitioner. The complex rituals, combined with the fact that there is no explicit reference for determining good from bad, means that Vajrayana can only be practised under a teacher. Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism has a rich history of venerable monks and lamas who are accepted as reincarnations of evolved beings such as the Bodhisattvas. The Vajrayana Buddhist, as part of his training, studies various aspects of Theravada, Mahayana and tantric Schools. As a student, he is supposed to have attained the basic Buddhist qualities of morality, kindness and compassion, before advancing onto Vajrayana practices. The idea is that all situations can facilitate one’s spiritual awakening, and the student learns not to suppress energy, but to transform it. Vajrayana Buddhists cultivate an optimistic view of the environment and other beings, and aim to develop these qualities themselves. Thus, instead of focusing on the negative aspects with a view to overcoming them, the seeker recognises and develops the positive side. At the same time, recognition and transformation of each particular negative defilement produces a particular corresponding wisdom.Contact: website: buddhism.about.com Trust your guruMalati A. Rao, HyderabadI am one of the first few blessed students of Sri V.S.P. Tenneti Keshavamitra to take mastership of the Arkavidya. When I decided to have my first session, all my doubts started creeping in. I felt I would be depriving the students from Keshavamitra’s blessings. Keshavamitra’s passion and commitment to teach the great Arkavidya is unparalleled and inspiring too. His teachings are beyond mere passing of information or making people healers. I expressed all these thought to my Guru. He simply replied: ‘Don’t worry, I will be with you. They will be blessed.’ I took this lightly and felt he was just being motherly. The days when I attended a session on February 14 and 15 in Hyderabad, he was in Bangalore. I was nervous in the beginning but later, I was totally involved with the class. During the initiation when we were chanting the mantras, all of a sudden I felt that I was hearing my Guruji’s voice in my voice. First I thought it was my imagination, but after the initiation my husband, who is also a student of V.S.P. Tenneti and was attending the session, mentioned that he also heard Guruji’s voice and not my voice at the time of initiation. Other students also said they felt someone’s presence in the room. In the evening, Guruji called up and told me that my session was good and he was present with me, when at the same time he was conducting a session in Bangalore miles away from Hyderabad. This taught me to have complete trust and accept unconditionally our Guru. Ph: (040) 27427519 Soka GakkaiSoka Gakkai is a movement of lay Buddhists that originated in Japan. Following the teachings of the Nichiren School of Mahayana Buddhism, its philosophy reposes faith in every individual’s inherent ability to create value in their lives, while also enriching society. Buddhists of the Nichiren School believe in the ‘ultimate’ truth of the Lotus Sutra, believed to contain the loftiest teachings of the Buddha. According to the Lotus Sutra, Buddhahood is not an external state attainable after death, but rather an elevation in an individual’s present life itself. Also known as the Human Revolution, Soka Gakkai followers believe such a way of living to be the only way to bring about permanent change in society, an idea best expressed in the words of the President of the Soka Gakkai International, Dr Daisaku Ikeda: ‘‘…the Soka Gakkai finds the noblest religious thought and philosophy in the individual life, the aggregate of which becomes the basis for a new and better society.’’ Makiguchi Tsunesaburo, the founder of the Soka Gakkai movement, held that happiness, which was the ultimate goal of each individual, could be attained through the teachings of Nichiren. He taught that the understanding of life depended upon the perception of truth (cognition) and evaluation (value). Cognition is empirical in nature while evaluation is subjective to the individual. Makiguchi’s successor Toda Josei stressed on religious practice as the path to individual salvation, which would ultimately lead to universal salvation. He advocated daimoku or chanting of nam myoho renge kyo and daigohonzon, the mandala composed by Nichiren. Soka Gakkai philosophy is life affirming and humanistic. Not preaching specific rules of conduct, Nichiren Buddhism does enjoin upon its followers to respect all life and to discover the potential of their lives. Soka Gakkai adherents believe in creation—the transformation of possibilities into actualities—as an inherent aspect of life. They consider nam myoho renge kyo, to be the ultimate reality infusing all existence. An affirmation of the pledge to devote one’s life to the ultimate Law of the Universe, its chanting forms an integral part of the practice of Soka Gakkai. Followers affirm the possibility of Buddhahood for every human being through actualisation of one’s innate potentialities—the flowering of one’s Buddha nature. They also deepen their understanding of practice through the study of the Buddhist teachings. While members focus on their own spiritual growth, the Soka Gakkai movement is dedicated to a better society through peace, education and culture.Contact: Bharat Soka Gakkai Cultural Centres Ph. (Delhi) (011) 2625 1016, (Mumbai) (022) 2215 1644 AhimsaThe Sanskrit word ahimsa stands for total and complete renunciation of any type of violence, arisin
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