Universal Teachings

Three Marks of Existence

The Buddha taught that everything in the physical world, including mental activity and psychological experience, is marked with three characteristics — impermanence, suffering and egolessness. Thorough examination and awareness of these marks helps us abandon the grasping and clinging that bind us.

  1. Suffering (Dukkha)

The Pali word dukkha is most often translated as “suffering,” but it also means “unsatisfactory” or “imperfect.” Everything material and mental that begins and ends, is composed of the five skandhas, and has not been liberated to Nirvana, is dukkha. Thus, even beautiful things and pleasant experiences are dukkha.

  1. Impermanence (Anicca)

Impermanence is the fundamental property of everything that is conditioned. All conditioned things are impermanent and are in a constant state of flux. Because all conditioned things are constantly in flux, liberation is possible

  1. Egolessness (Anatta)

Anatta (anatman in Sanskrit) is also translated as nonself or nonessentiality. This is the teaching that “you” are not an integral, autonomous entity. The individual self, or what we might call the ego, is more correctly thought of as a by-product of the skandhas.




The Three Jewels: The Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha

“I Take Refuge in the Buddha”

When we say “the Buddha” often we are speaking of the historical Buddha, the man who lived 26 centuries ago and whose teachings form the basis of Buddhism. But the Buddha taught his disciples that he was not a god, but a man. “Buddha” also refers to “Buddha-nature,” the absolute, unconditioned nature of all things. While “Buddha” may be a person who has awakened to enlightenment, “Buddha” might also refer to enlightenment itself (bodhi).  

“I Take Refuge in the Dharma”

Like “Buddha,” the word Dharma can point to several meanings. For example, it refers to the Buddha’s teachings, and also to the law of karma and rebirth. It is also sometimes used to refer to ethical rules and to mental objects or thoughts.

“I Take Refuge in the Sangha”

Sangha is another word with multiple meanings. It most often refers to the monastic orders and the institutional bodies of Buddhism. However, it is also often used in a way similar to how some western Christians use “church.” A sangha can be a particular group of Buddhists, lay or monastic, who practice together. Or, it can mean all Buddhists everywhere.

The importance of sangha cannot be overestimated. Trying to achieve enlightenment by yourself and only for yourself is like trying to walk uphill during a mudslide. Opening yourself to others, supporting and being supported, is critical to loosening the fetters of ego and selfishness.



Four Noble Truths

The Buddha’s first sermon after his Enlightenment centered on the Four Noble Truths, which are the foundation of Buddhism. The truths are:

  1. The truth of suffering (dukkha)
  2. The truth of the cause of suffering (samudaya)
  3. The truth of the end of suffering (nirhodha)
  4. The truth of the path that frees us from suffering (magga



Eight-fold Path

The Eightfold Path of Buddhism is the means by which enlightenment may be realized. The historical Buddha first explained the Eightfold Path in his first sermon after his enlightenment.

Most of the Buddha’s teachings deal with some part of the Path.You might think of it as an outline that pulls all the Buddha’s teachings together.

The Eightfold Path is:

  1. Right View or Right Understanding, insight into the true nature of reality.
  2. Right Intention, the unselfish desire to realize enlightenment.
  3. Right Speech, using speech compassionately.
  4. Right Action, ethical conduct; manifesting compassion.
  5. Right Livelihood, making a living through ethical and non-harmful means.
  6. Right Effort, cultivating wholesome qualities; releasing unwholesome qualities.
  7. Right Mindfulness, whole body-and-mind awareness.
  8. Right Concentration, meditation or some other dedicated, concentrated practice.

The word translated as “right” is samyanc (Sanskrit) or samma (Pali), which means “wise.” “wholesome,” “skillful” and “ideal.” It also describes something that is complete and coherent.



Hollow Bones Zen Five Training Elements- Five Practice Mirrors:

Our Order is unique in that we utilize five essential training elements, or mirrors, to enhance wisdom and compassion and transform our daily lives. Our training mirrors help you to wake up, grow up, and show up. They are:

Sacred Stewardship:

We accept our intimate interdependency, our oneness, with the environment, the universe and all sentient and non-sentient beings. We embody this realization, and we lovingly choose not to create any more suffering in the world. We recognize our responsibility and extend it first to everything within our arm’s reach and eventually to infinity. What is your Sacred Stewardship practice?

Philosophical Re-indoctrination:

Through study, dialog and practice, we develop a broader and more inclusive philosophy. We become more insightful, and our thinking is more flexible, comprehensive, and clear. We open our minds and hearts. We command a new language accepting and including the truth of the empty nature of our spirit and deep mind as well as the real intention and meaning of our emotions. This new view is seen and felt in our actions. What is your Philosophical Re-indoctrination practice?

Emotional Maturity and Integrity:

With our new understanding and experience of the true nature and real meaning and mechanics of emotion, we will no longer be bound to unconscious reactions. For instance, we will be able to experience anger as reactive violence and not project it. We will recognize and experience the energy arising before the reaction of anger as intense clarity and deep caring. With this new understanding, we will experience shame not as an introjection doubting self-value but as a question, challenging our worthiness, our integrity, and instead of shutting down, we will hear the question and respond truthfully and skillfully. Through Mondo Zen Emotional Koan Awareness Intervention practice, we transform our painful emotional reactions into compassionate responses. Our “angst becomes our liberation!” Mature emotional responses emerge in the same relationships where immature emotional reactions were once the rule. All reactions to fear including anger, shame and jealousy become rich opportunities for transformation and eventually become inconceivable. For instance, energy that would normally be experienced as anger now arises as what it really is, “intense clarity and deep caring”! What are your Mondo Zen Koans, your Emotional Maturity and Integrity practice?

Conscious Embodiment:

Through Qi Gong, Yoga, Dance and other spiritual body training practices, we investigate and become more aware of our embodiment. We locate and release the physical contractions associated with psychological tension. We become more sensitive, healthy and conscious. We delight in the discovery that enlightenment is visceral! We actually experience embodied conscious awareness feeling and working with the life energy of our bodies. What is your Conscious Embodiment practice?

Genuine Insight:

Concentration/Meditation practice is essential. These Five Training Element practices are our awakening, our genuine insight. Practice is realization. Through Concentration/Meditation, new philosophical understanding, emotional koan, physical awareness and sacred stewardship practices, we awaken. The Five Training Elements stand like mirrors allowing us to see reflected there how our core practices are transforming our lives. We achieve a personal freedom only possible with deep, spiritual realization and discipline. Integrated Five Element discipline is our awakening. Our practice is our Enlightenment! What is your Mondo Zen Koan Concentration/Meditation Genuine Insight practice?



Mondo Zen/Hollow Bones Rinzai Zen School