torstai 25. tammikuuta 2018

Shodo Harada Roshi's Awakening

Shodo Harada Roshi's Awakening

At one point during my training I could not pass a koan*, and was packing up my things in the monastery, ready to leave, giving up. At that time I thought it should not have taken me, or anyone else, more than three years to reach kensho**. I remember my tears at the end of my first rohatsu sesshin*** when I couldn't realize kensho. Was something wrong with the way I was sitting in the zendo? I would even go out and sit all night long, but still I could not break through. So I packed my things and went to the roshi (Yamada Mumon Roshi). I told him I was going to go sit for as long as I possibly could alone. The roshi asked, ”Then what are you going to do?” I said I would know then, that I did not know at the moment, but when that time came I would know what I had to do. The roshi did not say anything.
I went to the Nara mountains, doing one sesshin after another on my own, I then went to different mountains in another area and did the same thing, sitting one sesshin after another. It was nearing the time of rohatsu when a young man appeared in the mountains. Neither of us had seen anyone for a few days and we were eager to talk. He asked me if I was practicing Zen, and I said, ”Yes.” The other young man had been doing the practice of chanting the Buddha's name, and he exclaimed, ”How lucky you are, to be spending all of your time, your whole life, doing your practice!” This from someone who was able to practice only a few days a week. His words hit me like a blow on the head. At that moment, all the burdens I had been carrying around fell away, and I knew that I had never left the Buddha's palm. I became suddenly light, as if my body was weightless. I returned to Nara and found a letter from my previous training temple asking me to come there for rohatsu.
Knowing the path would always open in front of me, I have never lost that confidence that I have never left the Buddha's palm at any time in any way. From that time on, sanzen**** was never terrible again. All of the koans were just my karma ripening, and to be done going on and on. Since then, the path has always been open to me. I could accpet whatever came. If there was no food, it would be OK to die sitting. This is the important point: to entrust completely, to live today with one's fullest energy, to have no anxiety deep within, to have no sense of having done this or that, leaving it all up to the natural way, leaving it all up to heaven and earth.

From ”The Path to Bodhidharma” by Shodo Harada.

*koan, zen practice of poems and riddles
**kensho, awakening
***rohatsu sesshin, the most intensive zen retreat of the year that lasts 8 days
sesshin, zen retreat
****sanzen, meditation interviews with a zen master

Omori Sogen Roshi's Awakening

Omori Sogen Roshi's Awakening

For eight years Omori Roshi (1904-1994) commuted between Kyoto and Tokyo. In 1933, finally, he ”broke through” and passed the koan Mu. About this realization, Omori Roshi says:

My experience was not very impressive or glorious, so I don't like to talk about it but... One day after finishing zazen, I went to the toilet. I heard the sound of the urine hitting the back of the urinal. It made a splashing sound. It sounded very loud to me, and at the very moment I realized, ”AHA”, and I understood. I had a realization.
I AM!” I was very happy. But it was not a showy experience. It was not even very clean. Sound is not the only thing that can trigger this experience. Yamada Mumon Roshi, with whom I trained, had a very different experience. He was walking down the hallway when he saw the red color of the autumn leaves, and suddenly he was enlightened.
When you are enlightened, you realize very clearly that you are right in the middle of Mu. This becomes a little theoretical, but according to Nishida's philosophy, it is stated that the infinite circle has infinite centers. In effect, what happens is that you realize that that center of the infinite circle is you.
When you are in the state of samadhi, whether you call it Mu-samadhi or another type of samadhi, you are unconditionally in the realm of Absolute Nothingness (zettai mu). At that time, because of some incident, when you break through the samadhi, you will attain realization. It is like ripe fruit on a tree. When the wind blows or the branch sways, the fruit will just fall from the tree. If the fruit is not ripe, though the wind may blow or the branch sway, the fruit will not fall.
You will realize with your entire being that you are at the center of Absolute Nothingness (zettai mu) and at the center of the infinite circle. To be at the center of the infinite circle in this human form is to be BUDDHA himself. You have been saved from the beginning. You will understand all these things clearly and with certainty.
Even if you are in the state of samadhi but do not have this realization, you are merely in that state. You will not feel that, ”I am glad I am who I am. A great burden has been lifted from my shoulders. I am content. I am saved”.

From ”Omori Sogen, The Art of a Zen master” by Dogen Hosokawa.

Kim's note: Omori Sogen Roshi was the teacher of my teacher, Terayama Tanchu Sensei.

keskiviikko 24. tammikuuta 2018

The Five Paths and the Ten Bhumis by Geshe Rabten Rinpoche

The Five Paths and the Ten Bhumis
by Geshe Rabten Rinpoche

Teachings given by Geshe Rabten Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, in 1969. Source:

There are five successive paths on which a bodhisattva develops:
  1. The path of accumulation (sambharamarga)
  2. The path of training or preparation (prayogamarga)
  3. The path of seeing (darshanamarga)
  4. The path of intense contemplation (bhavanamarga)
  5. The path of liberation or no more training(vimuktimarga)
When bodhicitta has been developed until it is natural and intrinsic, the bodhisattva has completely obtained the sambharamarga (which has lower levels before this point). Then many spiritual powers (rddhi) are attained, such as psychic power (mahabhijna), which enables the bodhisattva to know other people's thoughts, to know the past and future events of other beings' lives, to fly, to have multiple bodies, and so forth. A bodhisattva does not concentrate on these techniques specially to get a particular power; these powers come naturally. But the bodhisattva is able to put them to good use because these powers aid greatly in seeing the karma, spiritual development and potentialities of other beings, and whether or not they are in a state where they can be helped escape from samsara. The bodhisattva can see at which place beings can receive teachings from the buddhas and bodhisattvas in the various buddha-fields. 14 Many other virtues also accrue to the bodhisattva.

At this point the most important thing for the bodhisattvas is to meditate on emptiness, which is still not perceived clearly. When emptiness becomes clearer the second path, the path of training, is attained; this stage immediately precedes becoming an arya-bodhisattva.

Then, after much meditation, the feeling arises within the bodhisattva that the mind that meditates and emptiness are one, like water poured into water; (this feeling, though, is deceptive). This signifies the attainment of the path of seeing and the becoming of an arya-bodhisattva. Although the arya-bodhisattva still retains old karma as well as some defilements, no new karma is produced from this level of attainment onwards, and there is a great increase in psychic powers. For instance, the arya-bodhisattva begins obtaining the power to eradicate past karma and even deeper defilements. Because there are many different layers of avarana, they have to be removed one by one; as the psychic powers grow stronger, the bodhisattva can remove more and more layers.
Due to the first direct perception of emptiness on the path of seeing, the bodhisattva removes the first layer of obscuration of defilements (kleshavarana). The bodhisattva now has greater wisdom because there are fewer layers of defilements covering or hiding reality. On the first two paths, the obscurations are suppressed but are not truly eradicated and therefore they can still rise again. But on the path of seeing, one layer is actually removed forever. In all, there are ten layers of defilement-obscurations; they are like ten cloths which hide reality and have to be peeled or washed away. The practitioner removes the veils covering reality in the same way that one washes clothes, by using the strength of washing soap appropriate to the amount of dirt.

There are ten levels 15 of arya-bodhisattva:
  1. The joyous (pramudita)
  2. The stainless (vimala)
  3. The light-maker (prabhakari)
  4. The radiant (arcishmati)
  5. The very hard to conquer (sudurjaya)
  6. The turning-toward (abhimukhi)
  7. The far-going (durangama)
  8. The unshakable (acala)
  9. The good mind (sadhumati)
  10. The cloud of dharma (dharmamegha)
"The joyous" level, pramudita, is reached on the path of seeing, and all the other nine on the path of intense contemplation. At each of the ten levels, the bodhisattva has increasingly greater virtue and has overcome more defilements. In several scriptures, the amount of increase in virtue is given for each level; at some levels the virtues are innumerable. All these levels are a connected stream. One layer of defilement-obscuration is removed at each of the first seven levels; at the eighth, "The unshakable," the remaining three are removed so that the bodhisattva is then free entirely from kleshavarana. With respect to the removal of defilements, the bodhisattva is equal with the lower arhats, but in terms of the virtue amassed through such practice, the bodhisattva is much higher. These defilements are all removed by meditation on emptiness; at the level of the unshakable there is particularly strong growth in the strength of this meditation on emptiness.

At the ninth level, "The good mind," the bodhisattva begins at last to remove the wisdom-obscuration— jneyavarana. This is very subtle and difficult to perceive. If we put some garlic or onion into a pot and then remove it, the smell still remains. In the same way, although the defilement has gone, this obscuration still remains. At the level of "good mind," the bodhisattva is out of samsara but the wisdom is not quite perfect. At this point the bodhisattva can recognize and begin to remove the only remaining factor obscuring reality: the wisdom-obscuration, Without the removal of the wisdom-obscuration, the bodhisattva cannot help beings to the extent that a fully enlightened buddha can. The degree to which we can help others depends on the depth of our own wisdom.

While defilement-obscuration is like a cut that gives pain, the wisdom-obscuration is like the painless scar that remains when the cut has healed but not finally disappeared. "The cloud of dharma" is the level immediately before buddhahood, on which the last traces of the wisdom-obscuration are taken away. The removal of obscurations is like removing increasingly fine and wispy veils. The development of greater spiritual power is like having stronger and stronger binoculars to see more and more clearly. At the buddha stage, all obscurations are gone. Even a small part of a buddha's mind can see all things clearly at the same time. If there is even a tiny cloud in the sky there is still a small shadow on the earth, but when this cloud has disappeared the sun can shine everywhere. At the level called "The cloud of dharma," the bodhisattva meditates on emptiness with perfect concentration. Although emptiness can be seen clearly and completely, the tenth level bodhisattva cannot perceive both emptiness and phenomena simultaneously; a buddha, however, can see both at the same time. Things are empty of independent self- existence, but they themselves are not emptiness. The moment this final trace of the wisdom-obscuration disappears, phenomenal existence and emptiness suddenly appear together. At this moment a buddha can see phenomenality and emptiness simultaneously, not only with eye-perception, but also with the other sense-perceptions. At the time of becoming a buddha, not only is knowledge of the deepest nature of everything attained, but also the final virtues of body—such as easily multiplying the body an infinite number of times—and speech—such as being able to give teachings to any being without difficulty.
The virtue of a buddha's speech is unlimited. If, for instance, a thousand people each ask a different question in a different language at the same time, a buddha, by saying just one word, can answer all their questions immediately. We do not have the inner power to do this kind of action because of our avaranas. In all, there are sixty-four virtues of a buddha's speech: sweetness, softness, an attraction that makes people want to listen, a quality that gives a feeling of peace to those who hear it, and so forth. The different virtues of the body, speech and mind of a buddha can be found throughout many different sutras, and are presented collectively in a work by Lama Tsongkhapa. 16

There are one hundred and twelve different virtues of a buddha's body. The duty of a buddha is to help sentient beings; if it is helpful, in one second he can multiply himself as many times as there are beings, or can manifest as any kind of being or object such as trees, water, and so on. The buddha performs this type of miraculous action always and only to help beings find release from samsara.
To receive such help, we must also contact the buddha from our own side. At night, when the moon is shining on the surface of a lake that is clear and smooth, the light can shine on all parts of it, but if the surface is disturbed or overgrown the moon cannot penetrate or be reflected; when it is smooth and clear, the moon is reflected clearly in it, the reflection being just like the moon in the sky. In the same way, the buddha's help goes out to all beings equally; it is the beings' receptivity that varies. We must, for our part, make contact with the buddha; if it were not necessary for us to act from our own side, the buddha would have already taken us all out of samsara. A buddha has the ultimate mahakarunika, so he would not leave beings in suffering if by his own efforts alone he were able to take them out of it. If you clap your left hand with your right, your left hand must be there to receive the blow, otherwise there is no sound.

Once all coverings are removed and the power of the virtue that has been built up is at its full height, there is nothing we cannot do. We can multiply our bodies infinitely and can give teachings on all levels, from the beginning of the path to the goal; the virtue of a buddha's mind is that even a small part of it knows the reality of everything. This buddha stage is the effect of many causes, achieved through an enormous amount of Dharma practice.

After the historical buddha, Shakyamuni, had finished his teaching on earth, all the beings there at the time who had the karma to see and hear him had done so, and so he went to continue his work in other realms. Although this form has disappeared, he can still help beings in other forms. Buddhas can take ordinary forms such as a friend, guru and so forth.

tiistai 16. tammikuuta 2018

Bhumi Study Series, Part 10: From Zero to Mahasiddha Bhumis

Bhumi Study Series, Part 10
From Zero to Mahasiddha Bhumis
with Comments 

Bhumi Study Series
Jonathan: From 0 bhumi (unawakened) to 13th bhumi in 9 months time (1/2017-9/2017). Prior regular buddhist meditation practice of 18 years, including monthly retreats.

Karl N.: From 2nd bhumi to 11th bhumi in 4 months time (8/2017-12/2017).
Prior regular buddhist meditation practice for many years, including monthly retreats.

Shane: From 0 bhumi (unawakened) to 11th bhumi in 2 months time 
(11/2017-12/2017). Little buddhist meditation practice, including a few retreats.

Helena: From 0 bhumi (unawakened, photo of 1st bhumi) to 13th bhumi 
in 2 years and 11 months time (2/2015-1/2018). No prior training.


Maria: From 0 bhumi (unawakened, photo of 1st bhumi) to 12th bhumi 
in 11 months time (1/2017-11/2017). Some prior training of meditation and healing.

Rod: From 6th bhumi to 11th bhumi 
in 7 months time (5/2016-11/2016). Few years of prior meditation. 

Sari: From 0 bhumi (unawakened) to 13th bhumi 
in 2 years and 10 months time (2/2015-12/2016). 
Some years of prior meditation.


Tiia: From 0 bhumi (unawakened) to 13th bhumi 
in 3 years and 5 months time (4/2014-9/2017). 
No prior meditation.

Karl E.: From 0 bhumi (unawakened) to 13th bhumi 
in 12 months time (1/2016-12/2016). 
Some prior meditation.

Nathaniel: From 0 bhumi (unawakened) to 13th bhumi 
in 12 months time (1/2016-12/2016). 
Some prior meditation.

Kim: From 0 bhumi (unawakened, photo of 2nd bhumi) to 13th bhumi 
in 5 years and 1 months time (11/2011-12/2016). 
A lot of prior meditation and retreats.

maanantai 8. tammikuuta 2018

Controversy about Open Heart

Controversy about Open Heart

This letter was composed as a note to Open Heart Sangha members but is posted in this blog as well.

Dear Sangha members.

I'd like to have a public discussion on two matters concerning Open Heart. The first one is the constant negativity projected on Open Heart by buddhist traditionalists. The second one is critique expressed by those who left Open Heart Sangha. I wish to discuss these matters openly with our practitioners so that when you hear about these things, you are already aware of these matters. Everyone is free to form your own opinion and think for yourself.


I used to be an active writer on a number of buddhist bulletin boards (discussion forums) online. These include DharmaOverground, DharmaWheel, (Finnish) and Zen Forum International (no longer exists). As you know, I have often asked questions that too rarely get asked. Talking of taboos, together with what the traditionalists see as outrageous claims of my own attainments (they have missed the crucial point of the difference between opening and perfecting bhumis), while myself being as they say a ”self-proclaimed” teacher, is why orthodox buddhists on the mentioned forums as well as on Facebook, have very negative view about myself and Open Heart.

When I was still active writing on forums, before 2017, I tried to express my views while trying to understand those of others. After I had started to use the buddhist view (theory) in my teachings, along with being a ”self-proclaimed” teacher ”who claims to communicate with gurus long dead”, on part of the opponents these discussions started to end up being about my persona, rather than the topic that was originally discussed. Many times the opponents could not get over the fact that I had no lineage to back up my claims. Me not having a lineage is something that I have always openly and publicly acknowledged. One of the first questions buddhists ask is whether someone has a lineage and if they don't that pretty much ends the fruitful discussion, at least in my case it has. This is especially the case in tantric buddhism and dzogchen, where one having a guru is the most important principle.

Some Tibetan buddhists online, many with decades of practice and some even lamas or translators of buddhist texts, have simply branded me as a ”fake”, ”charlatan”, ”hoax” or more recklessly as a ”crazy” or as an ”idiot”. On forums such as the DharmaWheel this seems to be a standard way of treating teachers without lineages, no matter who they are or what they teach. Without having the kinds of documents they want to see, they don't want to hear about it. End of the story.

I am not into pleasing everyone but I am quite sad that some traditionalists have taken such negative standpoints. Until some point I tried my best to discuss and shed light on matters, on my views and thoughts that have evolved in the guidance of my gurus but eventually I figured out it was all in vain. I admit that my way of presenting some of the mostly highly regarded lamas of the present and past as similar samsaric human beings as the rest of us, without all the posh and pomp, probably didn't help. On the other I'd say that, looking at all the sex, power and abuse scandals happening in all schools of buddhism to some of the most highly authenticated teachers* together with all the external signs of dharma turned into deteriorated religion and the unhealthy hierarchical system of monks and priests, should make people ask questions(!). Anyway, this is why I stopped writing on forums (except which is our own forum).

It is worthy to mention that as far as I am aware none of the harsh criticisers out there have really looked into what the Open Heart teachings are. I have always welcomed educated criticism but these people have made up their mind and quite foolishly keep up the bashing. It has become a bit of a phenomena since it keeps continuing on it's own. Of course, saying harmful things, even among those who have the fortune of dharma, is nothing new. If there is something human beings know, it is how to cause harm. But hey, each to his own as everyone reaps the crops of one's own actions (karma).

I am pretty sure that as long as I keep teaching and Open Heart exists this negative talk keeps happening. For this reason, I wanted to tell you about it myself, before negative rumours enter into our sangha from outside. I have heard that such rumours circulate in Finland as well. For example, I was recently denied to rent a certain buddhist center for a zen-calligraphy exhibition (I own a notable collection of buddhist art and calligraphy) because "your activities are not clear and can be confusing to people who seek a valid spiritual path". They continue that "If one teaches according to one's own whims and mixes buddhist and hindu teachings it can be harmful to peoples mental health".

I always say that it is the inights and experiences what matter because they give us confidence of our path but even then Open Heart-practitioners hearing something strongly negative like this can cause some confusion. It simply happens to be the case that I do not have any formal recognitions from any buddhist authorities which is the main reason why this problem goes on. For some time I tried to reach to some buddhist lamas but the problem is that they dont want to give much attention, not to even mention authorisation to anyone they don't know. They are pretty self-sufficient and don't think it's their problem that I or OH has no traditional validation.

Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo and a couple of other lamas who I am friends with have encouraged me to continue what I do and let those who want to talk, talk how they wish. On the other hand I wouldn't want people to take up Open Heart-practices just because I had a formal recognition from any buddhist authority. I hope, like I always have, that people come to Open Heart because it makes sense and gives them insights and experiences. That is the most healthy way to start on the path of dharma.

Those who left

As in all sanghas, also in Open Heart there have been those who have left the sangha. Some have left in good terms, while some have left with what seemed to me a bitter taste in their mouth. Even if the criticism of those who left hasn't seemed lucid thinking to me I have wished well to all who left.

I would like to bring up a couple of things that those who left said.

I am not buying into the Open Heart Bhumi Model”.
Opening bhumis seems like a competition among practitioners”.
Opening bhumis is too goal oriented for me. I just want clarity of mind and compassion”.
The teacher rewards those who are successful in their practice, like in cults”.

A small number of people (4) who left during 2016-2017 all told me the first three points. Common to all these people was that for sometime before they left and expressed their criticism, they didn't regularly practice Open Heart-teachings anymore. Not practicing, OH-techniques or something else, of course leads into the mind becoming clouded with self-based emotions. The same wold happen to me if I stopped practicing now. In each case I have adressed their concerns through email correspondence because if I hadn't it might be taken as self-ingulgence on my part, and yet adressing criticism that as far as I see it is mainly caused by them not practicing, has felt sheer waste of my time. One of the reasons I wish to speak about this here, among sangha members is because when someone in the future wants to leave and say these same points to me, they already have my answer and I don't need to go through the whole thing again.

Until today I have seen perhaps a couple of hundred bhumi openings in OH-practitioners. Some students have opened few of them, some have opened all of them. I have also verified over 100 awakenings (opening of the 1st bhumi) and not once, have I heard that any of these people had zero positive effect of any of their bhumi openings. This includes those who eventually left. There has been a small number of openings (1st or otherwise) that didn't have that much difference but it always had some change, brought some* increased clarity of mind. Those who have kept practicing know perfectly well how great is the difference from having no bhumis open at all compared to having them all open. So, if someone is not practicing while ”not buying” into the OHBM, its not really something anyone can credibly critisize about.

As I have often said OHBM is a map of insight. Maps of insight are abound in buddhism. All schools from hinayana to mahayana to vajrayana have them. OHBM is ours. As said, having first and following awakenings (bhumi openings) makes us actually shift from the deluded state to the liberated state, bit by bit. It is a pity if some see this as a competition between practitioners but that is just their own projection. I always felt that openings of others are an encouragement and motivates my own practice. But if I don't practice while others go through the map of insight and I develop an issue about it, it's a problem in my mind, not in the minds of others. In that situation it is faulty to blame the method or the teacher for it.

Awakenings (whether first or consecutive) are known in most schools of buddhism by different names such as kensho, shinjin, semngo tropa and sotapanna or stream entry. In OH we speak of ”bhumi openings”. Its all the same, same kind of openings, same kinds of gradual clarification of the mind. Getting these openings will automatically make one's mind clear and compassionate because we are tapping into the natural state, buddhanature, more and more. If you don't practice and in consequence don't get insights, how will you ever come to know this?

It has been the custom in some zen buddhist sanghas for the teacher to publicly name and congratulate those who have had kensho on a retreat. I have done the same at our Facebook sangha, naming the person and congratulating on a bhumi opening in question. I have done this from 1st to 13th bhumi openings *equally to all* who have had bhumi openings (unless I have forgotten which I apologise). It has brought much joy and liveliness into our online sangha since many people like to congratulate others on their succesful practice. Having seen this positive effect on many in the group is the reason why have kept doing it.

I have always encouraged open discussion on anything. Everyone is also free to come and go as they please. No one is in any way tied to me or the group. Everyone is welcome to disagree with me and have their own opinions. I have also repeatedly discouraged all not to merely believe what I say but to do your own practice to find out these things for yourself. For these reasons mentioning ”cults” has no actual basis whatsoever.

OH sangha members, as always, please feel free to speak your mind openly.

Have a nice day.