Friday, June 12, 2009


Soto Zen emphasizes the practice of "just wholehearted sitting" as an unparalleled way to realize universal buddha nature, and as a great teaching on how to live. It is sitting without a personal goal, letting go of the mind's usual clinging to ideas and identities, and returning endlessly to full engagement in the present moment. Soto Zen also teaches through koans, classic Zen teachings presented in dialogue and action, through the words of Zen masters, and through study of Buddhist sutras.

Soto Zen pays particular attention to making your best effort in all you do, not separating spiritual practice from the rest of your life, and thus to taking the best care you can of the daily realities of family, work, and community. Ethics in Soto Zen are based on the sixteen bodhisattva precepts that are a guide for one's practice and an inquiry into the best way to live. Ceremony and ritual observances are further ways to express people's joys and sorrows.

The universal spiritual practice offered by Soto Zen is particularly relevant to today's complex, dynamic and pressured world. As anxiety about the future increases, a sense of isolation and sadness grows with it, and it is easy to lose one's spiritual compass. Despite increasing standards of comfort, expanding opportunities for education, and the excitement of technology, people in the modern world have not found peace of mind or peace among each other.

Soto Zen is a way of bringing peace into our lives and into our world, because it is a way of awakening and caring. It is a practice based on the creative, life-force of the universe that is native to all beings without exception as their truest nature, known as buddha nature. As this is our nature we have always at hand in this moment the opportunity to awaken to the vast reality of life. We are already in the complete universe of life as it truly is, but we are all too rarely aware of this, so we are rarely able to act in accord with our true nature. Seeing into one's nature, the anxiety of the self gives way to the generosity of equanimity and caring.

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