March 2009 Archives


(BENDOWA XVI)

The "Six Realms" refer to the six heavens, hells and earthly states into which one may be reborn in traditional Buddhist thought.


But, even if we do not take that literally, we can also say that this means just all sentient beings everywhere, throughout all space and time, many of whom are suffering in various ways. Dropping body and mind, we realize that there is no one in need of saving, no one suffering (yes, it is true!). All are emancipated from the start, nothing lacking.

However, don't take that as an excuse not to help those in need of help. There are so many lives out there in need of our assistance. I am in rather a serious mood today, as a few stories in the news regarding children have touched me very much.  



_____________________________


When one displays the buddha mudra with one's whole body and mind, sitting upright in this samadhi even for a short time, everything in the entire dharma world becomes buddha mudra, and all space in the universe completely becomes enlightenment. Therefore, it enables buddha-tathagatas to increase the dharma joy of their own original grounds and renew the adornment of the way of awakening. Simultaneously, all living beings of the dharma world in the ten directions and six realms become clear and pure in body and mind, realize great emancipation, and their own original face appears. At that time, all things together awaken to supreme enlightenment and utilize the buddha-body, immediately go beyond the culmination of awakening, and sit upright under the kingly bodhi tree. At the same time, they turn the incomparable, great dharma wheel and begin expressing ultimate and unfabricated profound prajna.

From: Talk on the Wholehearted Practice of the Way - Kosho Uchiyama (with Shohaku Okumura, Taigen Daniel Leighton)


Furthermore, throughout the Dharma worlds in ten directions, ordinary beings of the three states (the three miserable worlds of hell, hungry ghosts and animals) and the six states (the three miserable worlds plus the worlds of asuras, humans and gods) all become clear and pure in body and mind at once; they experience the state of great and their original features appear. From: Bendowa - A Talk about Pursuing the Truth  - Nishijima-Cross




(remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells;
a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended)


Thus Come One Thus Gone One Thus One

(BENDOWA XV)


"Tathāgata" is a name which can have several meanings and interpretations, including one who has thus gone and one who has thus come, or one who has found the truth. It may also be taken as the one who has gone to suchness or the one who has arrived at suchness


Yet there is no difference there.


And the Dharma-joy of a Tathagata may be thus the joy that is the truth, beyond all thought of mere joy or sadness. It is the joy of tasting one's original ground and state, true home, thereupon to live in such way as the ever-renewing realization of that truth


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When one displays the buddha mudra with one's whole body and mind, sitting upright in this samadhi even for a short time, everything in the entire dharma world becomes buddha mudra, and all space in the universe completely becomes enlightenment. Therefore, it enables buddha-tathagatas to increase the dharma joy of their own original grounds and renew the adornment of the way of awakening. Simultaneously, all living beings of the dharma world in the ten directions and six realms become clear and pure in body and mind, realize great emancipation, and their own original face appears. At that time, all things together awaken to supreme enlightenment and utilize the buddha-body, immediately go beyond the culmination of awakening, and sit upright under the kingly bodhi tree. At the same time, they turn the incomparable, great dharma wheel and begin expressing ultimate and unfabricated profound prajna.

From: Talk on the Wholehearted Practice of the Way - Kosho Uchiyama (with Shohaku Okumura, Taigen Daniel Leighton)


[The practice] thus increases the Dharma-joy that is the original state of the buddha-tathagatas, and renews the splendor of their realization of the truth. From: Bendowa - A Talk about Pursuing the Truth  - Nishijima-Cross




(remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells;
a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended)


Spring Away

Just the other day, we could celebrate the warm coming of Spring ....
But now, Spring is hiding itself, and a cold wet wind is blowing. All things come and go ...


I am reminded of this Koan (Blue Cliff Records 43) ...


A monk asked Master Dongshan, "Cold and heat descend upon us. How can we avoid them?" Dongshan answered, "Why don't you go to the place where there is no cold or heat?" The monk continued, "Where is the place where there is no cold or heat?"3 Dongshan said, "When cold be thoroughly cold; when hot, be hot through and through.

Master Dogen's Capping Verse:

On your way,

mindless,

hands swinging

in the coming of cold, coming of heat.

 

Drop through body and mind

and cold and heat.

 




(remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells;
a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended)


(BENDOWA XIV)


"Mudra" means a spiritual or powerful gesture, often performed with the whole body. In this case, "Zazen".

Uchiyama Roshi explains ...

"When one displays the buddha mudra with one's whole body and mind" means with one's three kinds of actions: physical, verbal and mental. We sit in full lotus with our body, put our tongue against the roof of our mouth and keep silent, and mentally we do not seek to become a buddha but put aside the operation of our intellect, volition, and consciousness. That "sitting upright in this samadhi even for a short time, everything in the entire dharma world becomes buddha mudra" is really wonderful. When we sit in proper form in samadhi, the whole universe of sitting, the world of zazen, opens.
 
The great Dogen Scholar, Taigen Dan Leighton, puts it this way ...

[In Bendowa] Simply just sitting is expressed as concentration on the self in its most delightful wholeness, in total inclusive interconnection with all of phenomena. Dogen makes remarkably radical claims for this simple experience. "When one displays the buddha mudra with one's whole body and mind, sitting upright in this samadhi for even a short time, everything in the entire dharma world becomes buddha mudra, and all space in the universe completely becomes enlightenment." Proclaiming that when one just sits all of space itself becomes enlightenment is an inconceivable statement, deeply challenging our usual sense of the nature of reality, whether we take Dogen's words literally or metaphorically. Dogen places this activity of just sitting far beyond our usual sense of personal self or agency.

_____________________________


When one displays the buddha mudra with one's whole body and mind, sitting upright in this samadhi even for a short time, everything in the entire dharma world becomes buddha mudra, and all space in the universe completely becomes enlightenment. Therefore, it enables buddha-tathagatas to increase the dharma joy of their own original grounds and renew the adornment of the way of awakening. Simultaneously, all living beings of the dharma world in the ten directions and six realms become clear and pure in body and mind, realize great emancipation, and their own original face appears. At that time, all things together awaken to supreme enlightenment and utilize the buddha-body, immediately go beyond the culmination of awakening, and sit upright under the kingly bodhi tree. At the same time, they turn the incomparable, great dharma wheel and begin expressing ultimate and unfabricated profound prajna.

From: Talk on the Wholehearted Practice of the Way - Kosho Uchiyama (with Shohaku Okumura, Taigen Daniel Leighton)




(remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells;
a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended)

As You Sit ... The Buddhas Sit

(BENDOWA XIII)


We'll spend a few days with the words of this passage from Bendowa.

Here, Master Dogen presents his view that, as you sit Zazen, the stones, grass, trees and stars are sitting Zazen. All the Buddhas and Ancestors sit Zazen in that moment, all sitting Zazen through and as your sitting.

And what's more, because a moment of Zazen is a moment of Enlightenment itself, Reality realized, a perfect action in that moment ... thus, all the stones, grass, trees, stars, Buddhas and Ancestors and all of Reality is Enlightened, is Enlightenment, in that moment.

_____________________________


When one displays the buddha mudra with one's whole body and mind, sitting upright in this samadhi even for a short time, everything in the entire dharma world becomes buddha mudra, and all space in the universe completely becomes enlightenment. Therefore, it enables buddha-tathagatas to increase the dharma joy of their own original grounds and renew the adornment of the way of awakening. Simultaneously, all living beings of the dharma world in the ten directions and six realms become clear and pure in body and mind, realize great emancipation, and their own original face appears. At that time, all things together awaken to supreme enlightenment and utilize the buddha-body, immediately go beyond the culmination of awakening, and sit upright under the kingly bodhi tree. At the same time, they turn the incomparable, great dharma wheel and begin expressing ultimate and unfabricated profound prajna.

From: Talk on the Wholehearted Practice of the Way - Kosho Uchiyama (with Shohaku Okumura, Taigen Daniel Leighton)




(remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells;
a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended)


How Do I Know If I'm Doing Zen Right?

Almost every day, somebody asks me to judge whether they are making "progress" in their Zen practice ... a practice that's based on dropping all idea of "progress".

Yet, there are some ways to know that there's been some "progress", though it's usually something for the student to confirm for the student, more than by seeking confirmation from any teacher.

Those ways can range from a deep, abiding sense of being at home in life, at one with life, embracing of life ... to an All-Fulfilling Taste of Who One Truly Is, One's Original Face, that ONE IS LIFE.
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(remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells;
a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended)


More frequently than ya might think, no kidding ... folks ask me for advice on things like what to do in the stock market? HUH? I think the picture below about captures my surprise!



Do they ask their stock broker for spiritual guidance?



I actually have little if anything to say on the subject of investing, so I'll just babble on here for a few minutes ... about how money won't buy you happiness, and stuff like that!
.
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(remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells;
a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended)


Dropping Away Body and Mind

(BENDOWA XII)


According to Master Dogen's account of his time in China, one morning his teacher Ju-Ching found a monk dozing during Zazen. Dogen heard his teacher scold the sleeping monk, "The practice of zazen is the dropping away of body and mind. What do you expect to accomplish by dozing? When Dogen heard this, he had a realization and went to Ju-Ching's room, offered incense and bowed.

Dogen said to his teacher, "Body and mind have been dropped, that is why I have come!"

Ju-Ching approved saying, "Body and mind have been dropped; you have dropped body and mind!"


And so ... just what is this "dropping away of body and mind" ?


_____________________________


In China, although scriptures were continuously introduced and spread since the later Han dynasty (first century BCE), still no one could determine which was most essential. After the First Ancestor came from the West, the roots of the entanglements were cut, and the one buddha-dharma pervaded. We cannot help but yearn for this to happen in our country as well. For all ancestors and buddhas who have been dwelling in and maintaining buddha-dharma, practicing upright sitting in jijuyu zanmai [the samadhi, the still abiding taste of the self in self-fulfillment] is the true path for opening up enlightenment. Both in India and in China, those who have attained enlightenment have followed this way. This is because each teacher and each disciple has been intimately and correctly transmitting this subtle method and receiving and maintaining its true spirit. According to the unmistakenly handed-down tradition, the straightforward buddha-dharma that has been simply transmitted is supreme among the supreme. From the time you begin practicing with a teacher, the practices of incense burning, bowing, nembutsu, repentance, and reading sutras are not at all essential; just sit, dropping off body and mind.

From: Talk on the Wholehearted Practice of the Way - Kosho Uchiyama (with Shohaku Okumura, Taigen Daniel Leighton)




(remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells;
a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended)


It's Spring ...

Just a simple celebration today of the coming of Spring.


Don't feel like talking much today ...



It's spring!




(remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells;
a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended)


More ... ZAZEN IS ALL YOU NEED!

(BENDOWA XI)


Master Dogen continues to tell us that "Zazen" ( that's Zen meditation ) is all we need ... enlightenment itself ...

And that means we don't need to bother with all that other Buddhist stuff ... like burning incense, ringing bells, bowing, chanting, worrying about the Precepts or even reading Buddhist books. All we need is Zazen, sitting on our cushion.

But ya know ... we are always working on a few different ways of seeing things here. So, at other times, Dogen reminds us, we think of Zazen 'Zen Meditation' in its wider meaning ... namely, all of life. At those times, 'Zen Meditation' also means burning incense, ringing bells, bowing, chanting, worrying about the Precepts or even reading Buddhist books.

Each action is, in that moment, 'Zen Meditation', and in that moment, all we need, a perfect act, the place to be. 

See how that goes?

And it is true for all our lives ... making breakfast for the kids, typing on the keyboard at work, paying the gas bill, washing the supper dishes ... all 'Zen Meditation' in its wider meaning ...


... and in that moment, all we need, a perfect act, the place to be. 


_____________________________


In China, although scriptures were continuously introduced and spread since the later Han dynasty (first century BCE), still no one could determine which was most essential. After the First Ancestor came from the West, the roots of the entanglements were cut, and the one buddha-dharma pervaded. We cannot help but yearn for this to happen in our country as well. For all ancestors and buddhas who have been dwelling in and maintaining buddha-dharma, practicing upright sitting in jijuyu zanmai [the samadhi, the still abiding taste of the self in self-fulfillment] is the true path for opening up enlightenment. Both in India and in China, those who have attained enlightenment have followed this way. This is because each teacher and each disciple has been intimately and correctly transmitting this subtle method and receiving and maintaining its true spirit. According to the unmistakenly handed-down tradition, the straightforward buddha-dharma that has been simply transmitted is supreme among the supreme. From the time you begin practicing with a teacher, the practices of incense burning, bowing, nembutsu, repentance, and reading sutras are not at all essential; just sit, dropping off body and mind.

From: Talk on the Wholehearted Practice of the Way - Kosho Uchiyama (with Shohaku Okumura, Taigen Daniel Leighton)




(remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells;
a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended)


ZAZEN IS ALL YOU NEED!

(BENDOWA X)


Today, Master Dogen begins to lay out his case that Zazen (a moment of Zen meditation) is all you need!


AND HE WAS RIGHT!


If you can come to see an instant of Zazen as complete, the only place to be ...


THAT'S JUST WHAT IT IS!


_____________________________


In China, although scriptures were continuously introduced and spread since the later Han dynasty (first century BCE), still no one could determine which was most essential. After the First Ancestor came from the West, the roots of the entanglements were cut, and the one buddha-dharma pervaded. We cannot help but yearn for this to happen in our country as well. For all ancestors and buddhas who have been dwelling in and maintaining buddha-dharma, practicing upright sitting in jijuyu zanmai [the samadhi, the still abiding taste of the self in self-fulfillment] is the true path for opening up enlightenment. Both in India and in China, those who have attained enlightenment have followed this way. This is because each teacher and each disciple has been intimately and correctly transmitting this subtle method and receiving and maintaining its true spirit. According to the unmistakenly handed-down tradition, the straightforward buddha-dharma that has been simply transmitted is supreme among the supreme. From the time you begin practicing with a teacher, the practices of incense burning, bowing, nembutsu, repentance, and reading sutras are not at all essential; just sit, dropping off body and mind.

From: Talk on the Wholehearted Practice of the Way - Kosho Uchiyama (with Shohaku Okumura, Taigen Daniel Leighton)




(remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells;
a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended)


Zazen Meditation with Jundo : Cars

I was going to just share some happy news with everyone today: I passed my Japanese driver's license test (considered one of the hardest in the world, by the way, and I failed twice! They make it tough to drive here.).

I was just going to talk about how even Zen folks can have goals, things we want to achieve in life (like passing that test), how ... even though we embrace life just-as-it-is ... our  "self" will still feel a bit of frustration at times at the normal annoyances of life. That's just a normal part of life: Darn Japanese bureacracy, darn traffic rules!

But then, on the way home, I witnessed a car accident, a roll over right in front of my eyes. I actually helped pull the people, a grandmother and little girl, out the back window. Fortunately, they were wearing their seatbelts, so were only a little banged up. What could have been a real tragedy turned out just to be something to make the heart pump a bit.

Anyway, our subject today is .... cars!

I do not want to make light of that accident, but I did experience something amid it all ... sounds kinda corny, I know ...

Truly, there is that part of us that drives on a free-way spanning the ten directions, no traffic jams there, no limits, never obstructed.  We are always arriving at our destination.

That license to drive is always in your pocket, though you may not know it. 



(remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells;
a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended)


A Picture Is Worth 1000 Words

For all the talking we do around here on Zen Practice, the meaning of what's shown in the following picture can never, ever be forgotten ... look closely ... very closely ....



blankwhitezen.jpgUnderstand?

(PS - There is no netcast today)

A Graduation Meditation

Tomorrow, our son Leon has a little graduation ceremony from Kindergarten, and he's about to start 1st grade. It is a day of joy, also mixed with a touch of sadness at passing time.

How should we approach such moments in our lives from a Buddhist perspective?

Well, first we should know that even happiness can be an obstacle in a Buddhist way if we cling to that happiness, hold on too tightly. We have to be willing to see all life pass and change.

But that does not mean we cannot savor happiness in the moment. We can, so long as we allow whatever comes next to come too.

(please excuse my red eyes today ... spring is here, and allergy season is upon us.

I am just trying to be 'at one' with the pollen too)



(remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells;
a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended)


In this section of Bendowa, Master Dogen recounts the tale of Zen Buddhism's coming from India to China ...

Much of the story, we now know, is fictional ... centered on historical characters who (if they lived at all) are composites of real persons remade via the creative imaginations of later writers. 

But that does not matter is the least, not one bit. Because, in Master Dogen's view ... merely by sitting a moment of Zazen, all the Lineage is made real, present with us, and all the Buddhas and Ancestors are sitting as we sit ... are no other than the sitting.

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Buddha Sakyamuni transmitted the right law to Mahakasyapa on Grdhrakuta Mountain, and a long line of patriarchs handed it down to Bodhidharma. And Bodhidharma went to China and transmitted the right law to Hui-k'o (Eka). This started the transmission of Zen Buddhism to the East. Transmitted thus in its essential purity, it came down by a natural route to the Sixth Patriarch, Hui-neng. At this time true Buddhism was transmitted to China, and it expressed a meaning free from [conceptual distinctions]. The Sixth Patriarch had two outstanding disciples- Nan-yueh Huai-jang and Ch'ing-yuan Hsing-ssu. Together they transmitted the Buddha seal; they were [guiding teachers for all beings]. These two schools spread, and five styles of Zen appeared. They were the schools of Fa-yen, Wei-yang, Ts'ao-tung (Soto), Yun-men, and Lin-chi (Rinzai). In present-day China only the Lin-chi (Rinzai) school is flourishing. Although the five schools differ, they are all based on the single seal of the Buddha Mind.

  From: Bendowa - A Soto Approach to Zen  - Reiho Masunaga  [with slight changes following Uchiyama]




(remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells;
a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended)


Great Ambition (Bendowa VIII)


One might think that, in attaining the realization that he attained in China, Master Dogen would drop all thought of ambition, goals, something he needed to achieve in life. However, as the below section of Bendowa shows, he sure came back to Japan with some great ambitions to teach and spread the Dharma. 

How can one have ambitions from a Zen perspective if, as we often say, we should drop all goals, preferences and ambitions?
 
Well, one perspective is that, in our Zen Practice, we can both have ambitions while dropping ambitions, both at once. Non-Zen folks might think you have to be X or Y (either "ambitious" or not), but we are XY (or non-XY) at once! No problem!

The result can then be, for example, that we work very hard for our goals while, at the same time, we totally embrace however our goals turn out, win or lose (for we drop all thought of "win" or "lose" ... even while shooting for a "win"!)

We also learn to moderate our ambitions, not become their prisoner. Our self worth does not hang in the balance of how they turn out (for we are not captives of the "self"). Certainly, Buddhism teaches, life is not about seeking fame, nor material wealth beyond our basic needs.

However, some ambitions are necessary in this world. Even the cook in the temple must have an ambition to feed all the monks in his charge each day, likewise we all have ambitions to feed our families, clothe and house them, perhaps run a business or engage in charity that will leave this world a somewhat better place. Those are all fine ambitions.

For there is a difference between ambition and profit seeking for personal benefit, and ambition and wealth in order to do good.

_____________________________

I came home determined to spread the Dharma and to save living beings - it was as if a heavy burden had been placed on my shoulders. Nevertheless, in order to wait for an upsurge during which I might discharge my sense of mission, I thought I would spend some time wandering like a cloud, calling here and there like a water weed, in the style of the ancient sages. Yet if there were any true practitioners who put the will to the truth first, being naturally unconcerned with fame and profit, they might be fruitlessly misled by false teachers and might needlessly throw a veil over right understanding. They might idly become drunk with self-deception, and sink forever into the state of delusion. How would they be able to promote the right seeds of prajna or have the opportunity to attain the truth. If I were now absorbed in drifting like a cloud or a water weed, which mountains and rivers ought they to visit [in order to find a teacher]. Feeling that this would be a pitiful situation, I decided to compile a record of the customs and standards that I experienced firsthand in the Zen monasteries of the great kingdom of Sung, together with a record of profound instruction from a [good] counselor whch I have received and maintained. I will leave this record to people who learn in practice and are easy in the truth, so that they can know the right Dharma of the Buddha's lineage. This may be a true mission.   From: Bendowa - A Talk about Pursuing the Truth  - Nishijima-Cross




(remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells;
a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended)


Hi,

Please join our MARCH MONTHLY 4-hour 'Live from Treeleaf' ZAZENKAI, recorded in "real time" and available at the following link:


Remember, when we drop all thought of 'here' 'there' 'now' and 'then' ... we are sitting all together!

Our Zazenkai consists of our chanting the 'Heart Sutra' and the 'Identity of Relative and Absolute (Sandokai)' in English (please download our Chant Book at the link below), some full floor prostrations (please follow along with me ... or a simple Gassho can be substituted if you wish), a little talk by me ... and we close with the 'Metta Chant', followed at the end with the 'Verse of Atonement' and 'The Four Vows'.

Please download and print out the Chant Book (PDF) at the following link:


The schedule is as follows:

00:00 - 00:50 CEREMONY (HEART SUTRA / SANDOKAI) & ZAZEN
00:50 - 01:00 KINHIN
01:00 - 01:40 ZAZEN
01:40 - 01:50 KINHIN
01:50 - 02:30 DHARMA TALK & ZAZEN
02:30 - 02:40 KINHIN
02:40 - 03:20 ZAZEN
03:20 - 03:30 KINHIN
03:30 - 04:00 METTA CHANT & ZAZEN, VERSE OF ATONEMENT, FOUR VOWS, & CLOSING


I SUGGEST THAT YOU POSITION YOUR ZAFU ON THE FLOOR IN A PLACE WHERE YOU ARE NOT STARING DIRECTLY AT THE COMPUTER SCREEN, BUT CAN GLANCE OVER AND SEE THE SCREEN WHEN NECESSARY. YOUR ZAFU SHOULD ALSO BE IN A POSITION WHERE YOU CAN SEE THE COMPUTER SCREEN WHILE STANDING IN FRONT OF THE ZAFU FOR THE CEREMONIES.

ALSO, REMEMBER TO SET YOUR COMPUTER (& SCREEN SAVER) SO THAT IT DOES NOT SHUT OFF DURING THE 4 HOURS.


Please join in, one and all.

Gassho, Jundo

Empty Handed (Bendowa VII)

In today's Bendowa, Master Dogen voyages to China (not a simple journey in the 13th century) searching for Truth ...

What did he gain while there?


Soon after his return he was asked this very question.


He responded ...


I have come back empty-handed. I have realized only that the eyes are horizontal and the nose is vertical


"I have come back empty-handed" ... or, as Master Dogen wrote a few lines earlier in Bendowa, "When you let go, the dharma fills your hands"

_____________________________

I then went to the great kingdom of Sung [China], visiting [good] counselors in the east and west of Chekiang and hearing of the tradition through the gates of the five lineages. At last I visited Zen Master Nyojo of Dai-byaku-ho mountain, and there I was able to complete the great task of a lifetime of practice. After that, at the beginning of the great Sung era of Shojo,  I came home determined to spread the Dharma and to save living beings - it was as if a heavy burden had been placed on my shoulders. From: Bendowa - A Talk about Pursuing the Truth  - Nishijima-Cross




(remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells;
a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended)


When the "Teacher" gets stressed ...

There will be no video today for technical reasons (rather stressful!), so I would like to post a little essay I wrote that continues our theme from last week ... on how "Zen teachers" sometimes get out on the wrong side of the bed too ...

_____________________

I am never one to say to folks that Buddhism or Zen practice is supposed to turn us into emotional robots, cold stones, or to make life a perpetual valium trip in 'Candy Land'. (Some forms of Buddhism do emphasize extinguishing many human passions and emotions, and that may be a wonderful path, but I never found that very attractive or practical in my own life). I believe that, so long as we have these human bodies, we will get "stressed out" sometimes.

I like my practice because it allows me to savor the human condition, the ups and downs, while seeing through the situation (although sometimes that takes time, as one can be blinded in the "heat of the moment"). Zen practice allows me to much more easily recover my balance (when I fall off life's bicycle). I can usually keep my stillness and "center" and avoid the wild extremes. I want to be a good and gentle human being,, easy on myself and others ... but a human being I will remain. I believe that Buddhism smooths out the ups and downs, and allows us more control over the ups and downs ... but that the ups and downs will always be part of life's ride. Anyway, they are a part of my life.

We can see through the "self", drop many aspects of having a mortal "self", soften or fully escape much of the friction when our "self" bumps into all the other "selfs" of the world ... but, so long as we are alive, we are a poor little "self".

In fact (can I say this as a Buddhist??), I even like my silly "self".

My wife and a couple of people mentioned to me today that I was being short and "snarky" (sarcastic and impatient) in talking to people. I realized that my wife is right, and I am still affected by a number of things, ranging from family and work issues, my teacher's health condition (he is 90 years old and not himself) to a Japanese driver's license test I failed (man, they make it hard to renew a license here!). It is a bit of stress, and I am acting out.

I believe that our human brains are built to handle stress (and some other sometimes aggressive or defensive emotions) in very primitive ways. We are still "Ug the Caveman" deep down. Our Buddhist practice let's us tame our "inner caveman" before he does his worst, although he is always sitting there ready to grab his club!

Anyway, I like to be the "teacher" in my Sangha because I am just a foolish, imperfect middle-aged man ... husband and father ... who thinks this practice makes him a significantly better and wiser (but often foolish) man. It is "okay" to feel stressed, worried, sad or "snarky" sometimes.

However, what you do with your "caveman" when that happens makes the all the difference in the world. I think.

Gassho, Jundo (the perfectly imperfect) Cohen



All evil karma ever committed by me since of old,

On account of my beginningless greed, anger and ignorance,

Born of my body, speech, and thought,

Now I atone for it all
.

 

Of Rinzai and Soto (Bendowa VI)

In today's Bendowa, Master Dogen recounts the story of his travels to China, searching for Truth ...


First, his years of study with Rinzai Zen Master Myozen, before heading to China and beginning the Soto Zen path.

What is the difference between "Rinzai" and "Soto"?  Well, there are many differences in methods and approaches.

But perhaps, in the end, both discover that there was nothing ever to find ...

_____________________________

After I established the will to pursue the Dharma, I visited [good] counselors in every quarter of our land. I met Myozen of Kennin [Temple]. Nine seasons of frosts and of flowers"swiftly passed while I followed him, learning a little of the customs of the Rinzai lineage. Only Myozen had received the authentic transmission of the supreme Buddha-Dharma, as the most excellent disciple of the founding master, Master Eisai - the other students could never compare with him. I then went to the great kingdom of Song [China], visiting [good] counselors in the east and west of Chekiang and hearing of the tradition through the gates of the five lineages. At last I visited Zen Master Nyojo of Dai-byaku-ho mountain, and there I was able to complete the great task of a lifetime of practice. After that, at the beginning of the great Sung era of Shojo, 1came home determined to spread the Dharma and to save living beings - it was as if a heavy burden had been placed on my shoulders. From: Bendowa - A Talk about Pursuing the Truth  - Nishijima-Cross




(remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells;
a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended)



The "slogan" of our Sangha is Life is our Temple.

I truly believe that, perhaps for the first time in history, it is more fruitful for us to practice and learn Buddhism outside of a monastery than inside. In the past, one had to go to a monastery to access Buddhist writings, teachers and a chance to practice Zazen. No longer.

In fact, if you can't do this Zen thing out in the heart of daily life ... what's the purpose? If you want to find out "who you truly are", you can find it there as much as anywhere.

So, what follows are some ordinary stories of the Zen of changing diapers, going to the park, fighting with my wife in the car (yes, that is Zen practice too). It is as true and rich a chance to practice as lighting incense and ringing bells in some dusty old temple.



(remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells;
a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended)



Well, today's sitting won't be too quiet. In fact, its pretty crazy and noisy.

My wife is away for the day, so I am watching our son Leon. But that doesn't mean I can't get a bit of sitting in  .... baby-sitting-sitting.

In fact, while it is usually our practice to sit in a quiet place, it is also good to sit often in a noisy or hectic place ... finding the quiet within. And today certainly fits that bill!

Also, when watching a child, we must remain alert even while sitting. We are not separate from our surroundings. So, I can always see him while sitting (on the screen today, although otherwise I would sit in the corner where I can observe the whole room). I am always ready to dash off my Zafu to avert disaster! In between disasters, I am just dropping thoughts ... including thoughts of disaster!

It may not seem like the "ideal" for sitting ... but what is not "ideal" sitting? We sit with what is. There is stillness even amid the nose tickling, ear tugging and hair tossling.



(remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells;
a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended)