A Zen’s-Eye View: Final awakening practice reminds us to drop the chatter

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Kuya Minogue is the resident teacher at the Creston Zen centre. For more information

Kuya Minogue is the resident teacher at the Creston Zen centre. For more information

For the last time, I want to review the eight practices of awakening beings: 1) have few desires, 2) know how much is enough, 3) enjoy serenity, 4) make diligent effort, 5) remember to be mindful, 6) practice meditation, 7) cultivate wisdom and 8) drop the chatter. These are the Buddha’s deathbed teachings. If you study them closely you will see that each awakening contains all eight.

The eighth and final awakening is not to engage in hollow discussion. In order to experience realization and thoroughly understand the reality of life, we have to drop all meaningless internal and external chatter. Buddha said, “Monks, if you get into hollow discussions, your mind will be scattered. Then, you will be unable to realize enlightenment. So you should immediately leave behind your scattered mind and end hollow discussion. If you wish to attain the joy of serenity, you need to cure the sickness of mindless chatter.”

These are the last words of Shakyamuni Buddha, and they are the ultimate admonition of Zen teaching. At 80 years of age, surrounded by friends and family, Buddha lay on his deathbed. He said to his disciples, “Monks, you should always endeavor wholeheartedly to search for the way of liberation. All things in the world, whether they are in motion or not, are insecure and bound to decay.” He rested for a moment then added, “Now, all of you be quiet and do not speak. Time is passing and I am going to die. This is my last admonition to you.” Without expounding dharma any further, the Buddha quietly passed away.

These eight practices of awakening form the heart of the enlightened life. However, there are many who do not know about this teaching and there are few who have studied it. For this reason, they continue to create suffering that could be avoided by living out these eight practices. The Buddha taught that we create most of the suffering that we encounter by cultivating many desires, and by not knowing how much is enough. But it is not too late to end self-created suffering. Fortunately, these great teachings are still intact and we can begin to practice them at any time. By thoroughly practicing and nurturing these awakenings, we will certainly realize our innate enlightenment. Once we have done that, we can teach them to others, just as Shakyamuni Buddha did.

Suggested practice: Each time you experience some form of suffering, ask yourself, “Am I creating this suffering for myself? Which of the eight practices of great awakening have I neglected to create this suffering?”

This brings to a close my teaching of the eight practices of awakening. It is my sincere wish that all readers have benefited from this teaching. Starting Jan. 30, my columns will review the 16 ethical precepts of Soto Zen Buddhism. We study them every second year at the Creston Zendo and in 2014 I want to share them with you.

Kuya Minogue is the resident teacher at the Creston Zen Centre. For more information, contact her at 250-428-6500.