Right Mindfulness

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“And what is right mindfulness? There is the case where a person remains focused on the body in and of itself—ardent, alert, and mindful—putting aside greed and distress with reference to the world. They remain focused on feelings in and of themselves... the mind in and of itself... mental qualities in and of themselves—ardent, alert, and mindful—putting aside greed and distress with reference to the world. This is called right mindfulness.”

As the Buddha said, Right Mindfulness, the seventh factor in the Noble Eightfold Path, is remaining focused on the body, on feelings, on mind, and thoughts or “mental qualities.” In other words, being mindful means being aware of the totality of human experience, in order to see whether our actions create suffering or alleviate it.

Recorded at Zen Center of New York City, 08/02/2015

Right Action

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As the fifth factor in the Noble Eightfold Path, Right Action is traditionally understood as not taking life, not stealing, and not engaging in sexual misconduct. More broadly, we could understand it as actions that are affirming, live-giving, and in harmony with the truth of things—that is, our deeply interconnected nature.

Sensei quotes Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche, who says that dharma means “the unmistaken.” And he says that the way to be unmistaken is to first learn, then reflect, then training in being unconfused. How? By taking actions that will lead to our clarity and awakening.

Recorded at Zen Mountain Monastery, 06/26/2015

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01 : Right Action

02 : This I Believe by Robert A. Heinlein

03 : Upajjhatthana Sutta

Right Livelihood

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Opening with a Spanish reading of Pablo Neruda’s famous poem “Ode to Common Things,” Zuisei Sensei speaks of Right Livelihood, the fourth factor in the Noble Eightfold Path.

Sensei speaks of work, both as sacred labor, and as the act of relating to other people and to things. We have to work, we have to make and buy and use and eat things. The question is how do we do this so we don’t hurt ourselves, each other, and our planet. So right livelihood is about living rightly—about caring deeply about our work and one another and the things that support our lives.

Recorded at Zen Center of New York City, 06/07/2015

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01 : Ode to Common Things by Pablo Neruda

02 : The Responsible Company by Yvon Chouinard

03 : Right Livelihood

Right Speech

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Zuisei Sensei speaks of Right Speech, the third factor in the Noble Eightfold Path.

She speaks of the importance of kind, mindful speech whose purpose is to affirm rather than negate, to support rather than demean. In fact, according to the Buddha, right speech should have five characteristics: it must be timely, true, beneficial, endearing, and agreeable. If it is missing any of these characteristics, then we do better to refrain.

Recorded at Zen Mountain Monastery, 05/31/2015

Note: Sensei’s talks on the second and sixth factors, Right Thought and Right Effort, were mistakenly not recorded. Therefore they’re missing from this collection.

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01 : The Lotus Sutra translated by Burton Watson

02 : The Bodhisattva’s Four Methods of Guidance by Dogen

03 : The Art of Fiction by Ernest Hemingway

Right View

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The Fourth Noble Truth, as the Buddha framed it, is the Noble Eightfold Path of right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.

In the first of a series of talks on the Eightfold Path, Zuisei Sensei speaks of right view as the light that illuminates the darkness of ignorance—the intellectual and experiential knowledge of the way things actually are.

Recorded at Zen Mountain Monastery, 04/24/2015

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01 : Right View

02 : Nature Needs a New Pronoun by Robin Wall Kimmerer

03 : Early Hour by Wislawa Szymborska