Continuing to look at famous teachings about meditation to support confidence in your search for the answer. Looking at the Kabbalah, let me start with some context. The world’s religions include the big 4 (Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism) is followed by 77% of people alive today. Despite only having 0.2%, Judaism is quite famous. It dates back to about 500BC (a little before Buddha) but is based on the preceding religion of Yahwism from the 1100’s BC. It’s texts are called the Tanakh which includes the Torah. Like the Sufi in Islam and Shingon in Buddhism, Kabbalah is a mystic esoteric sect (of Judaism). It formed about 1100AD in Spain and Southern France and the book Zohar is it’s primary text helping one to understand the Tanakh. The three forms of Kabbalah are the theosophical/theoretical understanding form, the ecstatic/meditative/experience of God form, and the practical/magical/harmonizing with heavenly forces form. To me these are like academic study, experience of jhana, and psychic experience. It’s remarkable how similar are: Ecstatic Kabbalah, Christian Mysticism, Jhana, and Yoga (“union with the divine”). Kabbalah refers to a celestial map of divine motivational forces: will, intellect, knowledge, and divine emotions called the Sephirot or Tree of Life where each circle represents a motivational force. A good book for seeing the parallels between Buddhism and Judaism is: The Jew in the Lotus.


Continuing to look at famous teachings about meditation to support confidence in your search for the answer. The Mindfulness Tradition was created by Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979 based on his study of Zen with Philip Kapleau (Yasutani Roshi’s lineage parallel to Maezumi Roshi in LA), Thich Nhat Hanh (Buddhist monk from Vietnam), and The Insight Meditation Society (Theravada Buddhist practice founded by Sharon Salzberg, Jack Kornfield, etc). Basically he made traditional Zen meditation practice accessible to folks in the US who were not comfortable with the Buddhist religious aspect of Zen. He did it through the U. Mass. Medical School as a pain management technique, later expanded to be a stress reduction technique in what they now call MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction). The UCLA dept. of Psychiatry center, Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC, founded 2011), is in the same Mindfulness Tradition. However Thich Nhat Hanh’s mindfulness practice, Goenka’s Vipassana (= insight) meditation centers are not the same. As I’ve been saying, when you sit down to meditate the first thing that happens is you calm down and many meditate just for that purpose. The second thing is you center yourself. This is as far as pain management and stress reduction can take you in the Mindfulness Tradition. However Zen meditation goes one step further, where you can experience jhana, satori, and eventually enlightenment. For me these are practical human experiences not religious miracles or belief systems. I also often find teachings that work toward being more present forget that remembering the past and imagining the future are activities that you can be present with. Being present means knowing what you are doing. It’s just easier to attain when you limit yourself to the present moment unfolding in the world around you.


Continuing to look at famous teachings about meditation to support confidence in your search for the answer. Here’s an introduction to the Upanishads, prompted by Noreen. I recommend a little Penguin book of excerpts. First, some rough context in time: Earth is 4,000,000,000 years old; life is 3,000,000,000 years old; the dinosaurs went extinct around 60,000,000 years ago; Hominid species like ours are about 5,000,000 years old and perhaps Homo Sapiens are 2,000,000 years old; written language started 5,000 years ago (=3,000BC); the first book was the Epic of Gilgamesh from ~2,500BC. Second, some context on early civilization: the main centers were along 4 rivers: The Tigris-Euphrates rivers and ancient Persian/Sumerian cultures, the Yang-Tze/Yellow river and ancient Chinese culture, the Nile river and ancient Egyptian culture, and the Indus river and ancient Indian culture. Lastly, from the ancient Indian culture we have the Vedas: writings from ~1,500 BC and the Upanishads: perhaps poetic summaries of the Vedas from between 800 and 200 BC. The Mahavakyas [Sanskrit: maha=great, vakya (from which we have the word “vocal”), so “great sayings”] are short phrases from the Upanishads. Ghandi revered the Isha Upanishad above all of them, and we have already gone through the Katha Upanishad. Today shared some excerpts from the Chandogya Upanishad including a favorite that I think spans Hinduism, Christianity and Buddhism:
It is true that the body is mortal, that it is under the power of death; but it is also the dwelling of Atman, the Spirit of immortal life. The body, the house of the Spirit, is under the power of pleasure and pain; and if a man is ruled by his body then this man can never be free. But when a man is in the joy of the Spirit, in the Spirit which is ever free, then this man is free from all bondage, the bondage of pleasure and pain.


Continuing to look at famous teachings about meditation to support confidence in your search for the answer. The Heart Sutra is perhaps the most famous across all of Mahayana Buddhism. Read English translation Sensei helped me write in 1994. We chanted it together in Japanese syllables (Maka Hannya Haramita Shingyo). Intruduced Hakuin Zenji and his commentary on the Heart Sutra. It may seem irreverent, but that’s just pointing out our inescapable hypocrisy: The Heart Sutra says all forms are empty (of no particular significance) including sutras such as the Heart Sutra. Same idea as UCI professor Derrida’s deconstructionism of all written words, which he expressed in his book, ironically. The point is we can only know truth through expression in forms. It’s the same dichotomy as in the Vedic Purusha and Prakriti, the Japanese Ri 理‎ and Gi, and even perhaps the ancient Egyptian Ba (personality soul) and Ka (immortal soul). Some music using the Heart Sutra: in Sanskrit, and in Mandarin from Gg.