A Zen’s-Eye View: Lojong slogan 45: Take on the three principal causes

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It is good to be aware of the circumstances that must come together if you are to develop a spiritual basis to your life through meditation and Zen training. By attending to the underpinnings that support you on the path, you can create and maintain a strong base for realizing your highest self in daily life. You can develop greater appreciation for your good fortune, and not take it for granted.

At the same time, it is also good to remind yourself that many people do not have such good circumstances. To do so will prevent you from making the mistake of judging and criticizing others. If you recognize that people need support in order to live their lives on a spiritual basis, you can aspire to provide them with the same kind of support that has enabled you to develop spiritually.

The first principal support for Zen training is a teacher, someone who has practiced and studied Zen for many years. You may have first heard about Zen and meditation through a book, a movie or from a friend, but no matter where you heard about it, if you trace it back, these teachings come from real live human beings, beginning with the Buddha himself in fourth century BC, extending through China, Japan and, finally, in the early 1960s, to North America. Without the hard work and sacrifices of many generations of teachers, you would never have heard about the possibility of Zen training.

The second principal cause is to understand the importance of meditation and Zen training. We all have the ability to work with our own minds; it is our natural capacity. But although all people have this capacity, few act on it. Recognizing that spiritual training is both possible and important, and acting on that recognition by working with a teacher and a community of practitioners, is the second strong support for practice.

The third principal cause is to have adequate social and economic support for your practice. You need to be practical. It is extremely difficult to develop a spiritually focused mind with an empty belly. Children and families need food, clothing, shelter and a loving home environment, and it is important to establish these conditions before starting a focused practice. Once you have worked to create the time and conditions for furthering your practice and undertaking Zen training, you can join with the first two causes, find a teacher and a community in which to train and make meditation and Zen practice the focus of your activities in daily life.

Suggested practice: What kinds of supports do you need to put in place to help strengthen your practice? Do you need more guidance from an experienced teacher? Do you need deeper confidence in your practice or commitment to training? Or do you need to develop a more stable social or economic base to support your practice? All three of these conditions are essential to Zen training.

This column is a long series of short essays exploring the meaning of the Lojong Slogans. It is inspired by the work of Judy Lief.

Kuya Minogue is the resident teacher at Creston’s ZenWords Zen Centre. For more information, she can be reached at 250-428-3390.