Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thanksgiving Interfaith Gathering

Below is a text I read tonight at the Thanksgiving Interfaith Gathering held at St Columba Catholic Church in Dothan. It is inspired by a Theravada tradition Scripture.

Countless are those born with poor physical or mental health. 
I have been born with all limbs and faculties complete. 

Many are those who live in lands of strife and conflict, and who are deprived of security and safety. 
I am living in a place where there is peace. 

Incalculable are those forced to toil without end, and who are driven by hunger and want. 
I have enough to sustain my body and time to give it rest. 

Numerous are those who live as slaves, unable to go where they wish and think as they like. 
I enjoy great freedom. 

Numberless are those who live in regions where the light of the truth does not shine and its message is not heard above the racket of doctrines that cause great suffering. 
I have heard the good teachings. 

Truly precious and great are the blessings I enjoy. Here I contemplate on my good fortune and the good of others. 

To repay all these gifts, I will use my efforts to overcome the 3 poisons of greed, hate and delusion.

We practice Zen meditation every Monday evening at 8:00 pm.
You are welcome to join us in Headland.

You can reach me by email at
or by phone at
334 798 1639

Friday, November 20, 2015

3 Dhukkas

When the First Noble Truth is told as “Life is Suffering” most people are unhappy because it sounds very negative to them.  

This is a translation problem.

 The Buddha did not speak English, French or Chinese. He did not use the word “Suffering” but “Dukkha”. Unfortunately, we do not have an accurate word to translate “Dukkha”.

Beside “Suffering” it is sometimes translated as “Stress” or “Dissatisfaction”. Actually, these 3 words- concepts - are part of Dukkha, but they do not fully represent it. So we might as well dump them and use “Dukkha”.


The Buddha spoke of 3 aspects of Dukkha :
  • Dukkha dukkha – Dukkha of regular Suffering or Pain
  • Viparinama dukkha - the Dukkha caused by Impermanence
  • Samkhara dukkha - the Dukkha of Conditioned Existence

Dukkha dukkha is easy to understand by most everyone, and it is properly translated in English by “Pain”, or “Suffering. “ It is the physical pain of a tooth ache, or the mental pain of losing a loved one.

There are different interpretations of the next 2 Dukkhas, and I will stick to one only of them. 

Viparinama dukkha is the dukkha due to Impermanence - the fact that things change. 
Example : You are working in your yard. The outside temperature is in the 80's but you do not feel hot. You walk inside your home to drink a glass of water. The AC is running and you stay inside a little to enjoy the coolness. You get back outside, and immediately feel uncomfortable because of the heat you experience. 

This is Viparinama Dukkha. The temperature has not changed outside, and you were not feeling uncomfortable before, but you enjoyed the coolness of the house, so when you went back outside, it felt too hot to you. So Viparinama dukkha describes the suffering or dissatisfaction arising in us when we lose something we were enjoying. 


Sankhara Dukkha is said to be deeper and more subtle, but actually I do not think it very complicated if you look at it from a certain perspective, Sankhara Dukkha deals with OUR impermance and the fact that we have to struggle to stay alive. 
What are we really ? We are an assemblage of living cells trying to stick together. At the moment of our conception, a sperm and an egg produce a first living cell which later splits and develops into a fetus by incorporating atoms brought to it by its mother. At the time of birth we begin to absorb food and oxygen from the outside world, and grow a bigger body. This growing of an individual being is one of 2 great trends of the universe. 
One trend organizes, structures and bring order. The opposite and complimentary trend disorganizes, dissolves and brings chaos. 
A powerful description of this is the Taoist Yin-Yang theory. Practically it describes everything is subject to 2 competing and complimentary trends, one promotes the organization of usually inanimate matter into a well defined entity separate from the rest of the universe, one trend tends to the opposite. Matter gets organized into a fawn, the fawn tries to stay alive, but eventually will die, the molecules that composed him separate, and will one day become part of an other creature. Or he could be eaten by a wolf, and part of him will become part of the wolf. There is a constant flow, it is almost a dance. Matter gets organized and disorganized constantly.

In the case of human beings, our evolution as a specie has given us one extremely potent tool to help us staying alive as individuals : our ego, or sense of self. Without this very potent tool, it is unlikely that we would have survived surrounded by the predators that were after us 100,000 years ago. One characteristic of human is their extraordinary will to live and fight to survive amazingly difficult physical or mental situations. This is the job of the ego. (And our problem comes from believing that we ARE this ego - but this is a different story).

So Sankhara Dukkha is the stress due to our constant trying to keep us alive as an entity, trying to keep together all molecules that are composing us while the rest of the universe wants them scattered... We are an assemblage of a great number of elements, we try – against the rest of the universe - to keep them together, and it is a constant effort. This is life itself, this is Sankhara Dukkha.

When you really look at them, the 3 Dukkha are not that different, They all comes back to impermanence and dependent origination. But teaching the 3 kinds will help better understand the 1st noble Truth.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Monk and the Samurai