January 2008 Archives


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Although we usually practice Zazen sitting cross-legged, 'facing a wall' ...


... we can practice 'Zazen' anywhere, even standing in the postal line ...


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In Soto style, we 'face the wall' ... we sit with our backbone at the center of the Zafu, perhaps slightly forward ... back straight, as if a tiny thread were running to the ceiling through the crown of the head ... give that thread a small tug, ever so slightly, to stretch the neck and pull the chin in ... your eyes should be 1/3 or 2/3 open (my teacher says naturally and fully open though ... the point is to remain present in this world and not drift into some dreamy state) ... gazing at a downward angle to the wall (or floor if that is all you have) ...



Aim for that, in a balanced Full or Half Lotus, or Burmese ... change things as necessary, but try for the 'ideal' ... There is no 'right' way or 'wrong' way at the heart of Zazen, nothing to aim for. Thus, please aim for the 'right way'.


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TRY AS I MIGHT, THE 'CONVEX' SHAPE OF THE CAMERA
LENS DISTORTS MY SITTING POSTURE A BIT



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SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO & JOHN

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We are running a little late today ...

John Simon sits with us. He is the designer, and technical genius, behind the whole Treeleaf Website ...

He created our 'famous' online and Mp3 ready 'Zazen Timers'.



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I am about to break a cardinal rule of 'Soto Zen' (not the first time): However, I hereby officially state that I do not think that the 'Lotus' Postures (although ideal if you can) are necessarily the best postures for most beginners ... I suggest the Burmese ...



... and, as a distant fourth, the 'Seiza Bench' (I think many people sit this way because they have not given the other postures a sufficient chance)


... And I view chair sitting as to be done only if truly necessary. We have had some nice chats on our Forum about sitting posture, such as HERE.

We will talk more about this tomorrow, and what to do with the rest of the body from head to toe.

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Please see a video by my teacher, Nishijima Gudo Roshi, on how to sit in the Full Lotus posture, look HERE





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Our mind in Zazen may be compared to the sky ... We are open, clear, spacious, boundless, like the clear blue sky ... Our attention is focused on everything and nothing, just as the sky covers all the world without discrimination ... Thoughts, like clouds, may come and go.

Clouds drift in and out, that is natural. However, we bring our attention again and again to the open, blue sky between, allowing the clouds of thought to drift away. More clouds will come, and so we repeat the process endlessly, once more and once more bringing our attention back to the blue sky ... to the open spaces between thoughts. It is no harder than opening the eyes on a summer's day, looking up at the clear blue sky, letting clouds drift in and out ... not having a care in the world, not having a goal to achieve, no other place to be.

However, this is important to bear in mind:

Although we seek to appreciate the blue, open sky between the clouds, we do not resist the clouds of thought that drift through our mind. We are not disturbed by them, we do not actively chase them out, neither do we welcome them, focus on them, play with them or stir them up. We allow them to pass, and return our focus once more to the quiet blue. Again and again.

As in the real sky, both blue expanse and clouds are at home there. We should reject neither, not think the blue somehow "truer" than the clouds. In fact, some days will be very cloudy, some days totally blue ... both are fine. We never say "this cloudy day is not good because there is no blue sky today". When the sky is blue and empty, let it be so. When the sky is cloudy, our mind filled with thoughts, let it be so. You see, even when hidden by clouds, the blue is there all along. Both the blue sky and the clouds are the sky ... do not seek to break up the sky by rejecting any part of it. (In other words, do not think one good and the other bad). Though we reject neither, we allow the clouds to drift from mind and return our attention again and again to the blue. Throughout, we are awake, aware and alert, conscious and present ... we are not in some mysterious or extreme state.

The clouds of thought and the clear blue are not two, are simultaneously functioning and whole ... a single sky. This is our way in 'Just Sitting' Shikantaza Zazen.

Master Dogen called that 'thinking not thinking' or 'non-thinking' ...


Click HERE to 'Play'
(SITTING TIME: Approx. 30 Minutes)

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The mind is a noisy toy.
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(If you would like to sit with another talk on a similar theme, please click here)
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Learning to taste the universe ...
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In "Just Sitting", we learn to take life like the weather ...



... whatever comes, comes.




(And that includes whatever comes in our sitting. Instead of the balanced, stable, openly aware sitting I usually consider a "good" sitting, today I was over-tired. I started to doze off despite my best efforts to stay awake. We should not doze off everyday, or even most days ... but if it happens once in awhile, that is just life too. We can embrace that fact, even as we seek to avoid it).





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Life is a million things to do. These days, all of us are juggling so much ...

Is Buddhism a teaching of passivity? Must it mean withdrawal from the world?


Not at all!



"Just Sitting" Shikantaza is stillness ... whether sitting or when moving.

We never leave our True Home ... though there are places we must go.

We drop all likes and dislikes ... while simultaneously choosing what we like.

The world is embraced 'just-as-it-is' ... then we change what we can.

Dogen taught True Goallessness ... but was a man of many goals.

Like two sides of a single coin ...


For there is nothing to achieve ... amid a million things to accomplish.



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We begin 'Zazen for Beginners (We're All Beginners)' ...


We'll talk the basics of 'Just Sitting' Shikantaza Zazen ...


...
There's a bit more to it than 'just sitting' !!





Today, we'll see how Zen practice is for us dogs, chasing our own tails ...










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SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO & LEON

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Just a quiet, father-son sitting today. At least for a few minutes, before Leon went off to play. He lost a tooth this week, his first.



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SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: Genjo Koan XX

... "dropping body-mind" ...

... "forgetting the self" ...

... sounds really tricky to "do". Maybe.it is!


But so's bicycle riding, swimming or tightrope walking if you try to explain these in words to someone who never has!


(By the way, 'just sitting' Shikantaza, like riding a bike, is the most ordinary thing. Nothing special. Yet we also come to know that when we're riding our bike, it is just the whole universe, all time and space, riding. So, there's that too about the most 'ordinary' of things! And are you riding the bike or is the bike riding you??)


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To study the buddha way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away. No trace of realization remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly. When you first seek dharma, you imagine you are far away from its environs. At the moment when dharma is correctly transmitted, you are immediately your original self. [Aitken & Tanahashi]


To learn Buddhism is to learn ourselves. To learn ourselves is to forget ourselves. To forget ourselves is to be experienced by millions of things and phenomena. To be experienced by millions of things and phenomena is to let our own body and mind, and the body and mind of the external world, fall away. [Then] we can forget the [mental] trace of realization, and show the [real] signs of forgotten realization continually, moment by moment. When a person first seeks the Dharma, he is far removed from the borders of Dharma. But as soon as the Dharma is authentically transmitted to the person himself, he is a human being in his own true place.[Nishijima]


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SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: Genjo Koan XIX




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. you, me & tea







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To study the buddha way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away. No trace of realization remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly. When you first seek dharma, you imagine you are far away from its environs. At the moment when dharma is correctly transmitted, you are immediately your original self. [Aitken & Tanahashi]


To learn Buddhism is to learn ourselves. To learn ourselves is to forget ourselves. To forget ourselves is to be experienced by millions of things and phenomena. To be experienced by millions of things and phenomena is to let our own body and mind, and the body and mind of the external world, fall away. [Then] we can forget the [mental] trace of realization, and show the [real] signs of forgotten realization continually, moment by moment. When a person first seeks the Dharma, he is far removed from the borders of Dharma. But as soon as the Dharma is authentically transmitted to the person himself, he is a human being in his own true place.[Nishijima]


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SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: Genjo Koan XVIII




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To "forget the self' is to be as an unborn child.

A moment of Zazen is as if returned to a womb never departed, as a life without thought of its separate self. The unborn one, when very newly conceived, cannot ask where child begins or parent begins. It does not ask a reason for its living, where life is going. It cannot judge the host, it feels no disappointment, and it knows no fear of tomorrow. There can be no idea of past, no idea of future, no idea of present. The child is yet the mother, the mother just the child. Are they one or two? The body and mind of one merges into the other.

Yet, without the slightest break, the child is actualized, experienced and realized as a being by the mother, is given life by each organ of the mother, while the mother is made so precisely because there is a child.



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To study the buddha way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away. No trace of realization remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly. When you first seek dharma, you imagine you are far away from its environs. At the moment when dharma is correctly transmitted, you are immediately your original self. [Aitken & Tanahashi]


To learn Buddhism is to learn ourselves. To learn ourselves is to forget ourselves. To forget ourselves is to be experienced by millions of things and phenomena. To be experienced by millions of things and phenomena is to let our own body and mind, and the body and mind of the external world, fall away. [Then] we can forget the [mental] trace of realization, and show the [real] signs of forgotten realization continually, moment by moment. When a person first seeks the Dharma, he is far removed from the borders of Dharma. But as soon as the Dharma is authentically transmitted to the person himself, he is a human being in his own true place.[Nishijima]


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SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: Genjo Koan XVII

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For Zen Master Hamlet, this need not be the question ...
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To study the buddha way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away. No trace of realization remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly. When you first seek dharma, you imagine you are far away from its environs. At the moment when dharma is correctly transmitted, you are immediately your original self. [Aitken & Tanahashi]


To learn Buddhism is to learn ourselves. To learn ourselves is to forget ourselves. To forget ourselves is to be experienced by millions of things and phenomena. To be experienced by millions of things and phenomena is to let our own body and mind, and the body and mind of the external world, fall away. [Then] we can forget the [mental] trace of realization, and show the [real] signs of forgotten realization continually, moment by moment. When a person first seeks the Dharma, he is far removed from the borders of Dharma. But as soon as the Dharma is authentically transmitted to the person himself, he is a human being in his own true place.[Nishijima]


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SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: Genjo Koan XVI

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As Dogen would say if he was from New Jersey ...




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To study the buddha way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away. No trace of realization remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly. When you first seek dharma, you imagine you are far away from its environs. At the moment when dharma is correctly transmitted, you are immediately your original self. [Aitken & Tanahashi]


To learn Buddhism is to learn ourselves. To learn ourselves is to forget ourselves. To forget ourselves is to be experienced by millions of things and phenomena. To be experienced by millions of things and phenomena is to let our own body and mind, and the body and mind of the external world, fall away. [Then] we can forget the [mental] trace of realization, and show the [real] signs of forgotten realization continually, moment by moment. When a person first seeks the Dharma, he is far removed from the borders of Dharma. But as soon as the Dharma is authentically transmitted to the person himself, he is a human being in his own true place.
[Nishijima]


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SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: Genjo Koan XV

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In realizing our fundamental nature, it is first necessary to appreciate the fiction which is our sense of self. We are each a set of factors and conditions that have fallen together temporarily as an 'individual'.


You are a folded paper crane that believes it can fly.* **


* But before you become overly depressed at your non-existence, keep in mind that such knowledge is liberating. It reveals that mental limitations on 'who you are' were also a fiction all along.

* * And, anyway, by another of Master Dogen's "simultaneously true" alternative perspectives (that we'll discuss in a day or so), your individual self is as real as real can be, actualized and confirmed by the whole universe. In fact, you are the only "you" in the whole universe (can you be another?), and are the universe too. Paper cranes can fly.

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To study the buddha way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away. No trace of realization remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly. When you first seek dharma, you imagine you are far away from its environs. At the moment when dharma is correctly transmitted, you are immediately your original self. [Aitken & Tanahashi]


To learn Buddhism is to learn ourselves. To learn ourselves is to forget ourselves. To forget ourselves is to be experienced by millions of things and phenomena. To be experienced by millions of things and phenomena is to let our own body and mind, and the body and mind of the external world, fall away. [Then] we can forget the [mental] trace of realization, and show the [real] signs of forgotten realization continually, moment by moment. When a person first seeks the Dharma, he is far removed from the borders of Dharma. But as soon as the Dharma is authentically transmitted to the person himself, he is a human being in his own true place.
[Nishijima]


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SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: Genjo Koan XIV





find yourself by forgetting your self




My Dharma Brother, Michael Leutchford, has a sweet modernized version of this ...
The truth that the Buddha taught is finding who “I” am. To find who “I” really am is to forget about “I.” To forget about “I” is to be whole with everything in experience. To be whole with everything in experience is to let go of my body and my mind, and to let go of the body and mind of the world.

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To study the buddha way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away. No trace of realization remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly. When you first seek dharma, you imagine you are far away from its environs. At the moment when dharma is correctly transmitted, you are immediately your original self. [Aitken & Tanahashi]


To learn Buddhism is to learn ourselves. To learn ourselves is to forget ourselves. To forget ourselves is to be experienced by millions of things and phenomena. To be experienced by millions of things and phenomena is to let our own body and mind, and the body and mind of the external world, fall away. [Then] we can forget the [mental] trace of realization, and show the [real] signs of forgotten realization continually, moment by moment. When a person first seeks the Dharma, he is far removed from the borders of Dharma. But as soon as the Dharma is authentically transmitted to the person himself, he is a human being in his own true place.
[Nishijima]


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SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: Genjo Koan XIII (REDUX)

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KENNETH WROTE ABOUT SOMETHING NEEDING TO BE CLARIFIED ... SO MUCH SO THAT I WANT TO REDUX THIS TALK ... PLEASE 'DROP YOUR BODY & MIND' AND GIVE A LISTEN ...




The Universe as Rock-&-Roll


The Universe is the 'rock' ... we are the 'roll' ...

... Now, if we try to force things, force ourself into playing using all our body and mind, then if one side can be heard, we will be deaf to the other.

But when we can just pour body-&-mind into the music (by dropping body-&-mind) ...



It's all ROCK-&-ROLL!



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When you see forms or hear sounds, fully engaging body-and-mind, you intuit dharma intimately. Unlike things and their reflections in the mirror, and unlike the moon and its reflection in the water, when one side is illumined, the other side is dark. To study the buddha way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away. No trace of realization remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly. When you first seek dharma, you imagine you are far away from its environs. At the moment when dharma is correctly transmitted, you are immediately your original self. [Aitken & Tanahashi]


Even if we use our whole body and mind to look at forms, and even if we use our whole body and mind to listen to sounds, perceiving them directly, [our human perception] can never be like the reflection of an image in a mirror, or like the water and the moon. When we affirm one side, we are blind to the other side.
To learn Buddhism is to learn ourselves. To learn ourselves is to forget ourselves. To forget ourselves is to be experienced by millions of things and phenomena. To be experienced by millions of things and phenomena is to let our own body and mind, and the body and mind of the external world, fall away. [Then] we can forget the [mental] trace of realization, and show the [real] signs of forgotten realization continually, moment by moment. When a person first seeks the Dharma, he is far removed from the borders of Dharma. But as soon as the Dharma is authentically transmitted to the person himself, he is a human being in his own true place. [Nishijima]


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SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: Packing Packing

Hi,

I am running very late, with much packing to do for our move back to Japan. It will be just a silent sitting today with not so much talking.




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Buddhists, like anyone, must have some opinions ... our favorite movie, whether god exists, our views on social issues, etc.

But there are some differences in how Buddhists hold opinions ...

First, while holding opinions, we simultaneously know a view of reality beyond opinions ... a universe without thought of likes and dislikes, this or that, picking and choosing, being or not being, all discrimination.

Second, we should not be so attached to our opinions, we should not clutch them too tightly. We should hold them lightly.

Third, we often can refuse to hold an opinions on matters that might trouble others, and that not holding of an opinion on truth --IS-- our truth. For example, some folks might want to debate whether their religion and god is "true" and the religion and god of other people "false". In the face of that kind of debate, Buddhists might simply drop all thought of religion/no religion, of which god is which or is at all ... and just smile.


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Was Buddha a Republican or Democrat?




Let's 'just sit', dropping thoughts of left right center ...



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I would like to point everyone to a stunning film and the book behind it (see/read both!) ...



"Anyone who has read Jean-Dominique Bauby's slim, extraordinary 1997 memoir "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" is likely to wonder how it could possibly be made into a movie. In 1995 Bauby, then 43 and the editor of French Elle, suffered a stroke that left him incapable of speaking and barely able to move, the victim of a rare condition known as locked-in syndrome. The one part of his body he could control was his left eyelid, and so Bauby learned to communicate by blinking. He wrote the book by working with an assistant, who would slowly recite a special alphabet; Bauby would blink to select the letters he wanted. In this way, letter by letter, word by word, sentence by sentence, Bauby built "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" -- to say "wrote" seems barely adequate, considering the mental discipline and physical effort the book must have cost him. Bauby died just two days after the book's publication in France, but what he left behind is a small wonder of architecture, an intimate structure in which the reader and the narrator find a private, shared space with windows that open out onto the vastness of the world. It's the very opposite of locked-in. ...
... The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" suggests -- perhaps it even proves -- that our capacity for joy, and our ability to process it through whatever senses are available to us, are more durable than we think. In his book, Bauby wrote about how although his ability to hear the outside world had been somewhat impaired, the hearing inside his head had changed dramatically. He wrote of being aware of the butterflies "that flutter inside my head. To hear them, one must be calm and pay close attention, for their wingbeats are barely audible. Loud breathing is enough to drown them out. This is astonishing: My hearing does not improve, yet I hear them better and better. I must have butterfly hearing."
http://www.salon.com/ent/movies/review/2007/11/30/diving_bell/


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SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: Genjo Koan XII



No need to label a "Buddha". Just live as Buddha and there is Buddha.
(anyway, we are already "Buddha" even when we don't recognize that fact or live that way ... )

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To carry the self forward and illuminate myriad things is delusion. That myriad things come forth and illuminate the self is awakening. Those who have great realization of delusion are buddhas; those who are greatly deluded about realization are sentient beings. Further, there are those who continue realizing beyond realization, who are in delusion throughout delusion. When buddhas are truly buddhas, they do not necessarily notice that they are buddhas. However, they are actualized buddhas, who go on actualizing buddha. [Aitken & Tanahashi]

Driving ourselves to practice and experience millions of things and phenomena is delusion. When millions of things and phenomena actively practice and experience ourselves, that is realization. Those who totally realize delusion are buddhas. Those who are totally deluded about realization are ordinary people. There are people who attain further realization on the basis of realization. There are people who increase their delusion in the midst of delusion. When buddhas are really buddhas, they do not need to recognize themselves as buddhas. Nevertheless, they experience the state of buddha, and they go on experiencing the state of buddha.
[Nishijima]


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SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: Tired!



Ol' Jundo's tired!

I am sitting at a retreat this weekend that continues very early in the morning, so please excuse just a silent sitting today. I barely can keep my eyes open!



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SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: Genjo Koan XI



Realization keeps on realizing. Light shines wherever pointed.

Ignorance feeds ignorance. Darkness spirals into darkness.

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To carry the self forward and illuminate myriad things is delusion. That myriad things come forth and illuminate the self is awakening. Those who have great realization of delusion are buddhas; those who are greatly deluded about realization are sentient beings. Further, there are those who continue realizing beyond realization, who are in delusion throughout delusion. When buddhas are truly buddhas, they do not necessarily notice that they are buddhas. However, they are actualized buddhas, who go on actualizing buddha. [Aitken & Tanahashi]

Driving ourselves to practice and experience millions of things and phenomena is delusion. When millions of things and phenomena actively practice and experience ourselves, that is realization. Those who totally realize delusion are buddhas. Those who are totally deluded about realization are ordinary people. There are people who attain further realization on the basis of realization. There are people who increase their delusion in the midst of delusion. When buddhas are really buddhas, they do not need to recognize themselves as buddhas. Nevertheless, they experience the state of buddha, and they go on experiencing the state of buddha.
[Nishijima]


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SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: Genjo Koan X



For Master Dogen, actualizing true 'enlightenment' cannot be separate from delusion, much as 'breathing' is not separate from air to breathe.

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To carry the self forward and illuminate myriad things is delusion. That myriad things come forth and illuminate the self is awakening. Those who have great realization of delusion are buddhas; those who are greatly deluded about realization are sentient beings. Further, there are those who continue realizing beyond realization, who are in delusion throughout delusion. When buddhas are truly buddhas, they do not necessarily notice that they are buddhas. However, they are actualized buddhas, who go on actualizing buddha. [Aitken & Tanahashi]

Driving ourselves to practice and experience millions of things and phenomena is delusion. When millions of things and phenomena actively practice and experience ourselves, that is realization. Those who totally realize delusion are buddhas. Those who are totally deluded about realization are ordinary people. There are people who attain further realization on the basis of realization. There are people who increase their delusion in the midst of delusion. When buddhas are really buddhas, they do not need to recognize themselves as buddhas. Nevertheless, they experience the state of buddha, and they go on experiencing the state of buddha.
[Nishijima]


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SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: Genjo Koan IX


In this section of Genjo Koan, Master Dogen offers a most subtle 'how to' and 'how not to' practice Buddhism.

The first sentences outline the gap between seeking to understand and master the world by forcing our separate 'self' upon it, resisting and judging it by the thoughts and standards of the self ...

versus

... the open, non-resisting, accepting tone which allows the world to sweep up, enliven and merge with ourselves.


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To carry the self forward and illuminate myriad things is delusion. That myriad things come forth and illuminate the self is awakening. Those who have great realization of delusion are buddhas; those who are greatly deluded about realization are sentient beings. Further, there are those who continue realizing beyond realization, who are in delusion throughout delusion. When buddhas are truly buddhas, they do not necessarily notice that they are buddhas. However, they are actualized buddhas, who go on actualizing buddha. [Aitken & Tanahashi]

Driving ourselves to practice and experience millions of things and phenomena is delusion. When millions of things and phenomena actively practice and experience ourselves, that is realization. Those who totally realize delusion are buddhas. Those who are totally deluded about realization are ordinary people. There are people who attain further realization on the basis of realization. There are people who increase their delusion in the midst of delusion. When buddhas are really buddhas, they do not need to recognize themselves as buddhas. Nevertheless, they experience the state of buddha, and they go on experiencing the state of buddha.
[Nishijima]




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SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: Joyanokane



A New Years tradition at Buddhist temples across Japan is the ringing of the Joyanokane, the temple bell from midnight. The bell is typically rung 108 times (sometimes by the temple priests, sometimes by invited guests or parishioners) to cleanse the listener of the 108 mortal desires (bonno) that, in traditional Buddhist thinking, are the cause of suffering. By ringing out the old year and ringing in the new, each earthly desire will be taken away and therefore we can start the New Year with a pure mind. It is a nice old custom.

If you would like to see a short film of traditional Japanese Joyanokane, please look here. And, for the grande version. please look here.

(The bell we will be sitting with today is from a Soto temple, Rakanji, in Oita Prefecture)




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