By Carlie Provident
“To share truth is an honor in itself, Dharma truth, truth of the heart,” Rev. Ryuun Joriki Baker said to open his presentation, “Dharma Talk – A Glimpse into the Art of Zen.”
His presentation took place on Thiel Campus, on March 15, 2018 and was free and open to the public.
Baker is a native Californian raised in a Lutheran family. He is now an American Zen Buddhist Monk and a trained social worker. He studied many Zen practices over twenty-five years, and in 2001 he was ordained. On Jan. 22, 2014 he was given the title of Osho, or Dharma teacher.
Baker had a spiritual awakening experience when he was 26. “We’ve all had those experiences,” he stated. “One day I find myself in a dark mode.” He had recently had spinal fusion and was told that there was the possibility that he wouldn’t be able to walk. This placed him in a mode where he felt that he wasn’t allowed to live to his full potential. Then one day, he explained, everything as being gone, as if he had simply “snapped fingers.”
Baker then talked about the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. He mentioned multiple times throughout the presentation that Siddhartha was a man, not a god, and that what he did could be done by anyone. He also said that Siddhartha was born as a prince and was foretold to become either a great king or a great monk.
Baker also said that Siddhartha had his awakening experience when he was a teenager and went to a poor part of town his parents didn’t approve of. While in that part of town he went through, what Baker called, the four gates. Those four gates were things that he knew about, but not to the extent that he had ever seen before from the palace. They were; sickness, old age, death, and on the way home he saw an ascetic monk sitting calmly amidst all of it.
Baker said that about ten years later Siddhartha was fed up with having everything he could ever want while still suffering so he left to find a way out of suffering. He did so by renouncing all his worldly pleasures including his wife a child. Baker explained that although Siddhartha loved his family he loved every living person just as much and he wanted to find a way to help them all.
Siddhartha eventually started traveling with five ascetic monks. Baker explained that ascetic monks are the monks that force themselves to suffer by not eating, drinking, being clothed properly, or having shelter, as a way of spiritual purification. He then said, how Siddhartha did this so well that he became the leader of his group and stayed with them for 5 years.
Baker continued by saying that eventually Siddhartha decided that he was going to eat and drink something to regain strength. When he did this his friends got mad and left him. Baker said that he then sat beneath a big fig tree, now known to followers as the bodhi tree, and sat in meditation. He refused to move until he found what he was looking for.
After forty days, Baker explained, Siddhartha arose as what is now known as a Buddha or awakened one. He then taught first about the four noble truths. Baker said that theses are four truths that are true for everyone. They are; there is suffering, you are the cause of your own suffering, the eightfold path, which are a lot like the ten commandments in from the bible, and to end suffering one must embody the eightfold path.
Baker said that Buddha continued to teach until his death. During that that time he gained many followers including Bodhidharma, who would become the founder of Zen Buddhism. According to Baker there was one teaching that Buddha did that taught Bodhidharma that the most beautiful things are also the most impermanent.
Baker described Bodhidharma teachings as uncompromising and contradictory to logic. He also said that when Bodhidharma went to China he scared the people and they would call him the “redheaded barbarian.” Still, Baker said that those teachings would make it all the way to Japan, where they would continue to the modern day.
There was then a time period for a short question and answer session. A junior, counseling psychology major, Jake Morgan, asked, “can you reiterate the four gates which Buddha teaches of?” Which Baker responded to as “sickness, old age, death, and asceticism”.
Someone from the community asked, “what an average day is like for you?” Baker answered, “it depends on the day. However, most days there is a morning service, an evening service, and seated meditation.”
Baker ended the session by telling story of a girl who ran away from home to be with the man she loved. After years living with he husband and children she decided to go back home to tell he father about her life. When they got to her old house her father told her husband that she has been lying in bed since he left. That is when the girl arose out of bed and merged with the girl at the doorway.
Baker said that the point of the story was to ask, “What defines you, who are you really?”