June 2007 Archives


We are on a 24 hour, door-to-door, commute back to Japan today. So, our sitting is pre-recorded. Please excuse that (I'm sitting Zazen today on the plane).

We are joined at a farewell party by our friend Mitsuko, a former ballet dancer but first time Zazen sitter, who tells us that the best way to leap in ballet is 'just to relax and do it'. My wife says that much the same is true in martial arts, and our son Leon - an avid hopscotcher - agrees about fine hopscotching.

So, in your choice of Zazen position .... 'just relax and do it'

Should see you tomorrow from Japan (or an airport along the way).

Usually on the place where we sit we spread a thick mat, on top of which we use a round cushion. Either sit in the full lotus posture or sit in the half lotus posture. To sit in the full lotus posture, first put the right foot on the left thigh, then put the left foot on the right thigh. To sit in the half lotus posture, just press the left foot onto the right thigh. Let clothing hang loosely and make it neat. Then place the right hand over the left foot, and place the left hand on the right palm. The thumbs meet and support each other. Just sit upright, not leaning to the left, inclining to the right, slouching forward, or arching backward. It is vital that the ears vis-a-vis the shoulders, and the nose vis-a-vis the navel, are directed away from each other. Let the tongue spread against the roof of the mouth. Let the lips and teeth come together. The eyes should be kept open. Let the breath pass imperceptibly through the nose. [NISHIJIMA]



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Today's "SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO" is, beyond doubt, THE MOST ENLIGHTENING EVER ...


Master Dogen proclaimed that "Zazen is Enlightenment itself" ...

Just crossing the legs, straightening the back, and all's done.

The prize is given, the trophy awarded, merely by walking through the Zendo door.

There is truly nothing to seek, nothing more to attain ... that's it!


But, don't assume that "nothing to attain" means "nothing shall be attained"

Though the prize is right in hand, one must learn to see it as such.


Here's a clue: It's not merely some lazy 'not bothering to seek' ...

Nor is it an 'it's all nonsense, there's nothing to seek' ...

It is, instead, the profound, from the deepest heart, Non-Seeking & No Seeker.



Usually on the place where we sit we spread a thick mat, on top of which we use a round cushion. Either sit in the full lotus posture or sit in the half lotus posture. To sit in the full lotus posture, first put the right foot on the left thigh, then put the left foot on the right thigh. To sit in the half lotus posture, just press the left foot onto the right thigh. Let clothing hang loosely and make it neat. Then place the right hand over the left foot, and place the left hand on the right palm. The thumbs meet and support each other. Just sit upright, not leaning to the left, inclining to the right, slouching forward, or arching backward. It is vital that the ears vis-a-vis the shoulders, and the nose vis-a-vis the navel, are directed away from each other. Let the tongue spread against the roof of the mouth. Let the lips and teeth come together. The eyes should be kept open. Let the breath pass imperceptibly through the nose. [NISHIJIMA]



(The above is a poster for the funniest movie about Soto Zen Buddhism ...
Be sure to find the DVD ... )
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That's my wife, Mina, in the photo below ... sitting 'Seiza' style for Ai-ki-do.

Like Zazen, Ai-ki-do is an art of balance in body-mind. There are many common points.

We are going to talk posture and form ... and will demonstrate a couple of ways to sit Zazen.

I live with a woman whose hands are lethal weapons. So, I try to keep her in a good mood ... always!



Usually on the place where we sit we spread a thick mat, on top of which we use a round cushion. Either sit in the full lotus posture or sit in the half lotus posture. To sit in the full lotus posture, first put the right foot on the left thigh, then put the left foot on the right thigh. To sit in the half lotus posture, just press the left foot onto the right thigh. Let clothing hang loosely and make it neat. Then place the right hand over the left foot, and place the left hand on the right palm. The thumbs meet and support each other. Just sit upright, not leaning to the left, inclining to the right, slouching forward, or arching backward. It is vital that the ears vis-a-vis the shoulders, and the nose vis-a-vis the navel, are directed away from each other. Let the tongue spread against the roof of the mouth. Let the lips and teeth come together. The eyes should be kept open. Let the breath pass imperceptibly through the nose. [NISHIJIMA]

At your sitting place, spread out a thick mat and put a cushion on it. Sit either in the full-lotus or half-lotus position. In the full-lotus position, first place your right foot on your left thigh, then your left foot on your right thigh. In the half-lotus, simply place your left foot on your right thigh. Tie your robes loosely and arrange them neatly. Then place your right hand on your left leg and your left hand on your right palm, thumb-tips lightly touching. Straighten your body and sit upright, leaning neither left nor right, neither forward nor backward. Align your ears with your shoulders and your nose with your navel. Rest the tip of your tongue against the front of the roof of your mouth, with teeth together and lips shut. Always keep your eyes open, and breathe softly through your nose. [SZTP]



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Jundo says: Zazen is a perfect non-doing, even when imperfectly done.

However, good balance in body yields good balance in mind.


Yonotsune zasho niwa atsuku zamotsu o shiki, ueni futon o mochiu,

aruiwa kekkafuza, aruiwa hankafuza.


Do not aim to become a buddha. How could it be connected with sitting or lying down?
Usually on the place where we sit we spread a thick mat, on top of which we use a round cushion. Either sit in the full lotus posture or sit in the half lotus posture.
To sit in the full lotus posture, first put the right foot on the left thigh, then put the left foot on the right thigh. To sit in the half lotus posture, just press the left foot onto the right thigh. Let clothing hang loosely and make it neat. Then place the right hand over the left foot, and place the left hand on the right palm. The thumbs meet and support each other. Just sit upright, not leaning to the left, inclining to the right, slouching forward, or arching backward. It is vital that the ears vis-a-vis the shoulders, and the nose vis-a-vis the navel, are directed away from each other. Let the tongue spread against the roof of the mouth. Let the lips and teeth come together. The eyes should be kept open. Let the breath pass imperceptibly through the nose. [NISHIJIMA]

Have no designs on becoming a Buddha. How could that be limited to sitting or lying down?
At your sitting place, spread out a thick mat and put a cushion on it. Sit either in the full-lotus or half-lotus position.
In the full-lotus position, first place your right foot on your left thigh, then your left foot on your right thigh. In the half-lotus, simply place your left foot on your right thigh. Tie your robes loosely and arrange them neatly. Then place your right hand on your left leg and your left hand on your right palm, thumb-tips lightly touching. Straighten your body and sit upright, leaning neither left nor right, neither forward nor backward. Align your ears with your shoulders and your nose with your navel. Rest the tip of your tongue against the front of the roof of your mouth, with teeth together and lips shut. Always keep your eyes open, and breathe softly through your nose. [SZTP]



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Below is a picture of the 'Medicine Buddha', typically found in Tibetan and other esoteric schools of Buddhism, and a chanted request that the sick be healed.

In our Zen practice, we do believe in nursing and comforting the sick of this world. It is the Precepts in action.

But, we ask in Zen, what is there ultimately in need of healing?

Is there anything lacking, thus in need of prayer?

My attitude toward prayer is pretty much summed up by this old joke (after all, laughter is the best medicine) ...


At the opening night performance of a play a famous actor keels over dead on stage. There is understandable pandemonium as audience and theater company alike are in shock. The Theater Manger comes out and announces to the crowd, "We are very sorry, but in light of the circumstances tonight's performance has been cancelled."

Way up in the balcony an Old Lady shouts, "Give him an enema!" The Theater Manager explains the situation again and again the Old Woman shouts, "Give him an enema!" This goes back a forth a few times until the finally the Theater Manager tells the lady, "Don't you get it? He's dead. How could an enema possibly help?"

The Old Lady's response: "Well, it couldn't hurt!"



Abandon all involvements. Give the myriad things a rest. Do not think of good and bad. Do not care about right and wrong. Stop the driving movement of mind, will, consciousness. Cease intellectual consideration through images, thoughts, and reflections. Do not aim to become a buddha. How could it be connected with sitting or lying down? [Nishijima]

Put aside all involvements and suspend all affairs. Do not think "good" or "bad." Do not judge true or false. Give up the operations of mind, intellect, and consciousness; stop measuring with thoughts, ideas, and views. Have no designs on becoming a Buddha. How could that be limited to sitting or lying down? [SZTP]



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Day after day Ma-tsu sat in meditation. His Master (Nan-yueh) finally questioned him about it. Ma-tsu explained that he was hoping to attain Buddhahood. The Master picked up a piece of tile and began to rub it with a stone. When Ma-tsu asked him what he was doing, the Master replied that he was polishing the tile in order to make it a mirror.
"How can you polish a tile into a mirror?" Ma-tsu asked.
"How can one become a buddha by sitting in meditation?" the Master shot back.


Today's sitting is dedicated to my 88 year old teacher, Gudo Roshi, who lives each day of weakness, strength and changing abilities with poise and balance of body-mind.


Abandon all involvements. Give the myriad things a rest. Do not think of good and bad. Do not care about right and wrong. Stop the driving movement of mind, will, consciousness. Cease intellectual consideration through images, thoughts, and reflections. Do not aim to become a buddha. How could it be connected with sitting or lying down? [Nishijima]

Put aside all involvements and suspend all affairs. Do not think "good" or "bad." Do not judge true or false. Give up the operations of mind, intellect, and consciousness; stop measuring with thoughts, ideas, and views. Have no designs on becoming a Buddha. How could that be limited to sitting or lying down? [SZTP]



MAKING A BUDDHA
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This was unplanned. So much of life is unplanned. We are traveling today, and My wife and I do not feel well suddenly (a touch of the stomach bug). When the Buddha was not well, he would recline, as in the picture below.

So, I will do today's Zazen lying down, just as the words say ...

Abandon all involvements. Give the myriad things a rest. Do not think of good and bad. Do not care about right and wrong. Stop the driving movement of mind, will, consciousness. Cease intellectual consideration through images, thoughts, and reflections. Do not aim to become a buddha. How could it be connected with sitting or lying down? [Nishijima]

Put aside all involvements and suspend all affairs. Do not think "good" or "bad." Do not judge true or false. Give up the operations of mind, intellect, and consciousness; stop measuring with thoughts, ideas, and views. Have no designs on becoming a Buddha. How could that be limited to sitting or lying down? [SZTP]



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Some meditation promises amazing stuff like this ...

A secret practice developed by Aboriginal tribes almost 40,000 years ago, will take you to states of extremely deep and serene meditation ... the use of vibrational sound which helped them to access higher dimensions of reality…dimensions not seen, heard or touched in the normal waking state, but accessed through deep meditational practices. ... They believed that everything in the Universe was vibrating at a higher level than what we currently vibrate and in order for us to raise our level of consciousness; we needed to open up our energy systems to allow more of this higher vibrational force in, thus helping you to function in a higher more spiritual fashion.

This method of deep contemplation can help you unlock the process of creating new energy pathways between the right and left hemispheres of your brain –leading you to a lofty state of mind, scientists call "whole-brain functioning." ... It actually opens the seven key energy centers in your body (known in the East as Chakras) – making you a powerhouse of energy, mental agility, and creativity. ... The inner harmony, peace and happiness you will develop are described by people as positively euphoric! You are “high” on life. Your life. ... This primal secret was used to reach untapped and hidden gifts that lay dormant in the subconscious mind. Some of them being advanced thought, blissful states of consciousness and an unshakeable will power.
http://www.deep-meditation-secrets.com/


Other forms of meditation seek to attain this ...


In nirvikalpa samadhi the individual consciousness is totally merged in the Cosmic Consciousness. Those who experience this state are not able to explain or describe it because it occurs when the mind has ceased to function. The only way they can even know that they experienced this state is after the mind leaves this trance of absorption. Then they experience waves of extreme happiness and can assume that they were in the state of nirvikalpa samadhi. The attainment of samadhi comes after long practice in this life, or as a result of much practice in a previous life or through the grace of the Guru. It is the culminating point in millions of years of development from lower forms of life to humanhood and finally to merger with the source of all being.
http://www.anandamarga.org/articles/astaunga-yoga.htm

Some meditation practices sound really useful:

Find out how to communicate and work with a spirit guide especially trained to do spiritual healing. You will take a look at energy causes of illness, learn meditation tools and discover how to heal yourself while you are healing others. ... you'll learn how to use your healing guides to remove energy cords, repair the aura and chakras, and perform cellular healings.
http://losangeles.craigslist.org/cls/347169867.html




Zazen won't do any of that.



Abandon all involvements. Give the myriad things a rest. Do not think of good and bad. Do not care about right and wrong. Stop the driving movement of mind, will, consciousness. Cease intellectual consideration through images, thoughts, and reflections. [Nishijima]


Put aside all involvements and suspend all affairs. Do not think "good" or "bad." Do not judge true or false. Give up the operations of mind, intellect, and consciousness; stop measuring with thoughts, ideas, and views. [SZTP]



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"Sweep away thoughts!" means one must do zazen. Once thoughts are quieted,
the Original Face appears. Thoughts can be compared to clouds. When clouds vanish, the moon appears.
The moon of suchness is the Original Face.

— Master Daito Kokushi (1282-1337)

Master Dogen said ...

Abandon all involvements. Give the myriad things a rest. Do not think of good and bad. Do not care about right and wrong. Stop the driving movement of mind, will, consciousness. Cease intellectual consideration through images, thoughts, and reflections. [Nishijima]


Put aside all involvements and suspend all affairs. Do not think "good" or "bad." Do not judge true or false. Give up the operations of mind, intellect, and consciousness; stop measuring with thoughts, ideas, and views. [SZTP]



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Grab a broom, sweep out the room that is your mind.

Abandon all involvements. Give the myriad things a rest. Do not think of good and bad. Do not care about right and wrong. Stop the driving movement of mind, will, consciousness. Cease intellectual consideration through images, thoughts, and reflections. [Nishijima]


Put aside all involvements and suspend all affairs. Do not think "good" or "bad." Do not judge true or false. Give up the operations of mind, intellect, and consciousness; stop measuring with thoughts, ideas, and views. [SZTP]



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Is Zen a 'religion'? A 'philosophy'? Something quite else?

I don't think about these questions much in my life. I just live life.

Does 'God' exist? Not exist? Whose 'God'?


I don't think about these questions much in my life. I just live life.

Is there 'Life-after-Death'? 'Reincarnation'? 'Nothing'?

I don't think about these questions much in my life. I just live life.

Were we born for a 'reason'? What reason? No reason?

I don't think about these questions much in my life. I just live life.



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I like to mix the Buddhist philosophical talk and Dogen-think with just sitting, just being-experiencing ... life. Our practice is not complete without both sides of the coin, I believe. So, when this thunderstorm came along today ... nature's summons to the Zafu.

We are leaving Coconut Creek in a couple of weeks, back to Japan. They sure have some roof-rattling rains here in Florida! The lightning and thunder brings one into the moment, much as a when a big 'OoDaiko'
drum is struck at the end of evening Zazen.

Thus shall ye think of all this fleeting world:

A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream;

A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,

A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream.

-the Diamond Sutra, XXXII


(There is no bell for this sitting. Please self-time: Approximately 25 minutes)

ANNOUNCEMENT: Book Club Discussion Group starting on the 'Treeleaf Community Forum'

I've been asked several times whether Zen is a 'religion', a 'philosophy', or just what it is.

My teacher, Nishijima Roshi, has written that all people necessarily have a 'religion', no matter that they call it a 'philosophy', or claim that they are 'atheists', or that they have no religion at all.

[My] definition of a ‘religion’ is something that virtually no human being can avoid to have ... In my definition, there are two elements central to a religion: The first is that there is some way of thinking or ideology believed true concerning the meaning and workings of the world and humankind’s place in it, and the other is that the actions of the individual are sought to be regulated in accordance with that way of thinking believed true. Namely, one aspect of the content possessed by something which constitutes a ‘religion’ is a faith in some ideology which is a world-view, and the other aspect is a discipline and regulation of the faithful’s actions to accord with the ideology thought proper in that faith. It is by this definition that I believe that all men and women ... have a religion.

Tomorrow, I will talk a little about the place of Zen practice in all that. Our way is rather different from most religions and philosophies.

Today's sitting is dedicated to my two good friends, Francesco and Stein S.


Survey on world religions by population.
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Which of the following statements are true?

(a) Zen Buddhists drop all opinions .
(b) Zen Buddhists hold clear opinions .
(c) Zen Buddhists drop all judgments of 'right' and 'true' .

(d) Zen Buddhists judge many things as 'right' and 'true' .


Answer: (a) (b) (c) & (d)


Thus Dogen Zenji, a man of very strongly held opinions, said ...

Abandon all involvements. Give the myriad things a rest. Do not think of good and bad. Do not care about right and wrong. Stop the driving movement of mind, will, consciousness. Cease intellectual consideration through images, thoughts, and reflections. [Nishijima]


Put aside all involvements and suspend all affairs. Do not think "good" or "bad." Do not judge true or false. Give up the operations of mind, intellect, and consciousness; stop measuring with thoughts, ideas, and views. [SZTP]



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Notice the picture below ... the center-pole anchoring opposing judgments of 'true' or 'false', see the whiteness from which all of it arises ...

Imagine that the pole stands for a world prior to all human judgments of right and wrong, true or false, this and that, left and right, good vs. bad, self and other ... What is that Reality?

Is it not a Truth before all human opinions of truth and falsity, the Truth of a world that 'just-is-what-it-is'? Maybe the stones know.

Thus, Master Dogen teaches the following as true and right ...


Abandon all involvements. Give the myriad things a rest. Do not think of good and bad. Do not care about right and wrong. Stop the driving movement of mind, will, consciousness. Cease intellectual consideration through images, thoughts, and reflections. [Nishijima]


Put aside all involvements and suspend all affairs. Do not think "good" or "bad." Do not judge true or false. Give up the operations of mind, intellect, and consciousness; stop measuring with thoughts, ideas, and views. [SZTP]



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I like it so much when Master Dogen says to drop 'likes' and 'dislikes' ...


It's good stuff to not think 'good' or 'bad' ...


Abandon all involvements. Give the myriad things a rest. Do not think of good and bad. Do not care about right and wrong. Stop the driving movement of mind, will, consciousness. Cease intellectual consideration through images, thoughts, and reflections. Do not aim to become a buddha. How could it be connected with sitting or lying down? [Nishijima]


Put aside all involvements and suspend all affairs. Do not think "good" or "bad." Do not judge true or false. Give up the operations of mind, intellect, and consciousness; stop measuring with thoughts, ideas, and views. Have no designs on becoming a Buddha. How could that be limited to sitting or lying down? [SZTP]



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Drop thought of the 'not-self' things, what need then for a 'self'? ...

Can you see the total circle of the picture?

Abandon all involvements. Give the myriad things a rest. Do not think of good and bad. Do not care about right and wrong. Stop the driving movement of mind, will, consciousness. Cease intellectual consideration through images, thoughts, and reflections. [Nishijima]

Put aside all involvements and suspend all affairs. Do not think "good" or "bad." Do not judge true or false. Give up the operations of mind, intellect, and consciousness; stop measuring with thoughts, ideas, and views.[SZTP]



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Master Dogen presents the nuts & bolts 'how to' of Zazen ...

Shoen o hôsha shi, banji o kyûsoku shite,
zen'aku o omawazu, zehi o kansuru koto nakare.
Shin i shiki no unten o yame, nensôkan no shikiryô o yamete,
sabutsu o hakaru koto nakare, ani zaga ni kakawaran ya.

Abandon all involvements. Give the myriad things a rest. Do not think of good and bad. Do not care about right and wrong. Stop the driving movement of mind, will, consciousness. Cease intellectual consideration through images, thoughts, and reflections. Do not aim to become a buddha. How could it be connected with sitting or lying down? [Nishijima]

Put aside all involvements and suspend all affairs. Do not think "good" or "bad." Do not judge true or false. Give up the operations of mind, intellect, and consciousness; stop measuring with thoughts, ideas, and views. Have no designs on becoming a Buddha. How could that be limited to sitting or lying down? [SZTP]


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Our fully enlightened being, Guru 'Ram Ass' - (the Great 'Sai Bobo') returns ...

We will discuss the secret of making choices that are always right, and never a mistake.


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I just don't feel like more words today ... so let's spent the extra time sitting together.

If, for some reason, you cannot survive for one day without hearing the sound of my squeaky voice, please listen again to yesterday's talk. I think it was a nice one.



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Maybe the Buddha was just a clever, but ordinary, man.

Maybe the Buddha didn't even really exist.

Maybe the Buddha was wrong about some things (and right about some things).

Maybe nobody knows what the Buddha truly said.

Maybe every single one of the Sutras was written centuries later by a writer putting words in the Buddha's mouth.

Maybe naive superstitions, local beliefs and nonsense mixed into Buddhism over the centuries.

Maybe you, me and every other Buddhist teacher and student is wrong about many beliefs now.

Maybe there will always be mysteries about life that the smartest human being will never solve ...

Does any of that matter?



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(The above logo is borrowed from another blog of the same name.
I do not endorse many of the opinions stated on that blog, but the logo is cool so I borrowed it)
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All things in moderation. Even moderation.

Sore sanzen wa jôshitsu yoroshiku, onjiki setsu ari.

In general, a quiet room is good for experiencing Zen balance, and food and drink are taken in moderation. [Nishijima]

For practicing Zen, a quiet room is suitable. Eat and drink moderately. [SZTP]



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For practice in a 'quiet room' to have real meaning, that room must hold the beautiful and the ugly. Thus, before leaving this topic, we will sit with the ugliest. We should avoid nothing in our room.

In our sitting, we drop all thought of 'good' and 'bad', 'war' and 'peace' and the rest. We embrace the world on its own terms, just-as-it-is. A garden is both flowers and weeds and, as Master Dogen noted in his Genjo Koan, "flowers, while loved, fall; and weeds, though despised, flourish."

But that being said ... and while fully accepting the mixed nature of things ... there is no reason not to encourage the flowers, and pull the weeds where we can.

Our Precepts guide us to avoid violence and the taking of life. Though some good can come from even the worst events, war is a tragedy. Yet some wars may be unavoidable evils, and the taking of lives, and the defense of nations, may be required for the saving of lives. If a soldier fights for his society with such intent in his heart, and if his actions are what are necessary to realize that intent, then he breaks no Precept (I think).

At least a couple of the members of our Sangha have experienced military service. One posted a profound statement of this 'War Koan' on another Blog, which I reprint in the comments section below with his permission. It is the dilemma of the soldier who must do his duty, and believes in his service, although there may be questions about the war itself.

All this will remain a fact until our human race matures beyond violence, assuming we survive that long. The following film contains graphic images of war. I sit with them tonight. They are not meant to make a political statement, no matter how someone may feel about the rightness of a particular war or a government's actions.

Though disturbing, you may choose to watch them before our sitting tonight.


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White on White ... Where does the body end and the room begin?

Quiet on Quiet ... What's heard when dropping all thought of sound and quiet?


In general, a quiet room is good for experiencing Zen balance,
and food and drink are taken in moderation. [Nishijima]

For practicing Zen, a quiet room is suitable. Eat and drink moderately. [SZTP]


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Zazen, by the side of the road ...

cars-thoughts passing by,
from emptiness come, now gone
stillness & movement

In general, a quiet room is good for experiencing Zen balance, and food and drink are taken in moderation. [Nishijima]

For practicing Zen, a quiet room is suitable. Eat and drink moderately. [SZTP]



Highway Mandala - Click on picture to 'play'
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To face the wall or not to face the wall ...

( ... gee, I guess I shoulda shaved my head better before this episode! ;-) )

In general, a quiet room is good for experiencing Zen balance, and food and drink are taken in moderation. [Nishijima]

For practicing Zen, a quiet room is suitable. Eat and drink moderately. [SZTP]



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From slow 'Oryoki' meal taking to fast food ...

Master McDogen® says:

Sore sanzen wa jôshitsu yoroshiku, onjiki setsu ari.

In general, a quiet room is good for experiencing Zen balance, and food and drink are taken in moderation. [Nishijima]

For practicing Zen, a quiet room is suitable. Eat and drink moderately. [SZTP]



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The rain has stopped, the clouds have drifted away,

and the weather is clear again.

If your heart is pure, then all things in your world are pure.

Abandon this fleeting world, abandon yourself,

Then the moon and flowers will guide you along the way.

Master Ryokan

(The great Florida rain can be heard at around the 7.00-minutes point of the sitting.
I wanted to share that sound with everyone)


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No sex, no drugs, no wine, no women No fun, no sin, no you ...
That's why I'm turning Japanese
I think I'm turning Japanese I really think so

For a detailed description on 'O-ryoki' meal-taking in a Soto monastery, please look here ...

Oryoki Instructions

For a brief film of a Japanese tea ceremony (if you have never seen one), please look here ...




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