April 2009 Archives

Resonating Like A Bell ...

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NOTICE: OUR MONTHLY 4-HOUR 'LIVE' ZAZENKAI WILL BE HELD ON MAY 9th


(BENDOWA XXV)

In other words ...

 A single person's sitting a moment of Zazen resonates like a bell through all space and time, carrying out the Buddha's work throughout the Universe, in total harmony with all beings and things everywhere. Practice is our original face brought to life and fruition, and its value is beyond measure. Not even all the Buddhas in all the Cosmos could calculate its worth!

If one sits Zazen with such a wholehearted and sincere attitude, tasting that it is so ...

...  THEN IT IS SO!
A non-self fulfilling prophesy realized!

But, instead, if one sits Zazen with the thought and attitude:


All I am doing is sitting on my backside, doing nothing,
 dead sitting, a listless, meaningless, killing of time



... THEN THAT IS SO!
A sad self-fulfilling prophesy of its own.


_____________________________

 Zazen, even if it is only one human being sitting for one moment, thus enters into mystical co-operation with all dharmas [phenomena of the universe], and completely penetrates all times; and it therefore performs, within the limitless Universe, the eternal work of the Buddha's guiding influence in the past, future, and present. [Zazen is equally the same practice and same enlightenment for both the person sitting and for all dharmas]. The practice is not confined to the sitting itself; it strikes space and resonates, [like] ringing that continues before and after a bell. How could [the practice] be limited to this place? [Not only that, but all things are endowed with original practice within the original face, which is beyond measure]. Remember, even if the countless buddhas in ten directions, as numerous as the sands of the Ganges, tried with all their power and all their buddha-wisdom to calculate or comprehend the merit of one person's Zazen, they could not even get close. .


From: Bendowa - A Talk about Pursuing the Truth  - Nishijima-Cross [with some amendments according to Uchiyama]





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

Buddha's Work

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(BENDOWA XXIV)

I am jumping back a sentence in the text due to my lack of mindfulness ...

Also, today's sitting and talk is especially dedicated to the fellow who wrote the other day to say that his son had passed away recently ...

In other words ...

You are perfectly you and not you, yet all things ... ... and thus one's self is perfectly realized and actuated, True Self manifested ...whereby, whether one is moving or standing perfectly still, all the world is going as it goes in a very beautiful way  ... as if buddha carrying out buddha's work and effects.
.


But does that mean the world is always just as our little self might wish it?

Does that mean that our responsibility for how we live ends there?


 
_____________________________

Moreover, although both mind and object [subject and object] appear and disappear within stillness, because this takes place in the realm of self-receiving and self-employing [jijiyu] without moving a speck of dust or destroying a single form, extensive buddha work and profound subtle buddha influence are carried out. .

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)

'Sitting With'

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A member of our Sangha posted this comment on our Forum ...


I have only learned since (recently) beginning to study Zen [that one can sit with one's problems]. Before, I had the notion that problems must be gotten rid of in order to be happy. Now I am understanding that when I sit, I sit with things, problems included. I will try to view my circumstances with gratefulness at having to learn these lessons.

This is very important.

Sitting with our problems and negative emotions often removes much of the fuel which fires them, for there is a vast difference between, for example, merely observing and experiencing and "being with" our feelings of anger or sadness vs. wallowing in our anger and sadness, stoking them up, fanning them and letting them take us over, obsess us and dominate our thoughts. Let the waves of emotion just roll on through (even if they feel like they will crash over you sometimes, even sweep you away. Let them roll on through like a passing wave on the sea).

... This lets us observe dispassionately the aspects of our problems and emotions which are, in so many ways, but mind created theatre of our own making... sometimes comedy, sometimes drama ... passing clouds of thought, the changing weather of mood and circumstance. In some important ways, our lives are like stories on the tv ... and we can change the channel! :D

In many cases, doing so lets us replace the seeds of harmful emotions with positive, healthful and helpful emotions ... anger replaced with peace and loving kindness, resistance made into acceptance, greed turned into charity etc. etc.

Now, that does not mean that sometimes we will not still be taken over by greed, anger and ignorance ... on some days the anger and sadness will still get us.* (Even "Zen Masters" can fall into depression and such at times in life). We are human beings, not saints. Some days, we still need to vent, have a good cry. Some days may actually need and deserve it! :cry: But overall, we will not be prisoners of these thoughts and emotions, trapped by them and unable to see things a different way.

Our Buddhist Practice allows us those other ways of seeing and living.




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

Silent Sitting

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We should never forget the silence ...

No words needed today, only sitting.





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

Grasses and Trees, Fences and Walls

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(BENDOWA XXIII)


One of the great Ancestors of Soto (Caodong) Zen in Song Dynasty China, Hongzhi Zhengjue, wrote this in his Mozhao Ming (Inscription on Silent Illumination) ...

All the myriad things in the universe
emit radiance and speak the dharma [the Buddha's teachings].
They all attest to each other
and individually correspond in dialogue

Uchiyama Roshi writes as a commentary on today's section of Bendowa ...

The grass, trees, and the land, all things in Nature itself, are the reality of life that is at peace and ease beyond discrimination. To radiate a great light means to be at peace and ease within the self that is only the self. ... all the myriad dharmas [things] lie within the self. Therefore, the self allows everything to become enlightened, and everything allows the self to be enlightened. This is true self-awakening and awakening of others.

This is not some simple naturalism, but something much more profound ...

_____________________________


The grass, trees, and earth affected by this functioning radiate great brilliance together and endlessly expound the deep, wondrous Dharma. Grasses and trees, fences, and walls demonstrate and exalt it for the sake of living beings, both ordinary and sage; and in turn, living beings, both ordinary and sage, express and unfold it for the sake of grasses and trees, fences, and walls.The realm of self-awakening and awakening others is fundamentally endowed with the quality of enlightenment with nothing lacking, and allows the standard of enlightenment to be actualized ceaselessly.

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)

Letting the Ocean be the Ocean

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(BENDOWA XXII)

In other words ...

 The grand chain reaction of Inter-being Inter-dependency Inter-support that is this world manifests ... --not-- by our thinking about it, nor by our analyzing it, nor by our having some small views or perspective about it all, nor by our doing some activity or practice in order to bring it about ...

nor does it arise by our forcing ourself to stop all thinking and feeling and activity ...

... but instead is best tasted when we abandon all that ... and abide in the quietness and stillness of non-thinking and non-action ...

whereby all depends not on anything we need think or do or feel or achieve.

For this reason, Zazen in not a means to attain enlightenment, but is enlightenment already in hand.

In other words ...

Realization is not dependent on anything we think or do ... nor on our stopping to think and do ... but instead on radically dropping all need to either think or not think, do or not do ... thus achieving the transcending of all goals to achieve right here-and-now, in a moment of Zazen.
_____________________________

[The state] is not dimmed by the views of these individuals themselves, however, because the state in the quietness, without intentional activity, is [enlightenment itself]. If we divide practice-and-[enlightenment] into two stages, as in the thoughts of common folk, each part can be perceived and understood separately. [But] if perception and understanding are mixed in, that is not the standard state of [enlightenment], because the standard state of [enlightenment] is beyond deluded emotion. Although, in the quietness, mind and external world enter together into the state of experience and pass together out of the state of realization, [those movements] are the state of receiving and using the self. Therefore, [movements of mind and the external world] neither stir a single molecule nor disturb a single form, but they accomplish the vast and great work of Buddha and the profound and fine influence of Buddha.


From: Bendowa - A Talk about Pursuing the Truth  - Nishijima-Cross [with some amendments according to Uchiyama]





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

More Nurturing Seeds

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A simple daily plan for nurturing the wholesome seeds of our mind ...
 





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


Nurturing Seeds

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A very ancient Buddhist model of the human mind and psychology includes something called the Store Consciousness (Alaya-vijnana). Thich Nhat Hanh has compiled several verses which give a sense of its workings ... here are part:

Mind is a field
In which every kind of seed is sown.
This mind-field can also be called
"All the seeds".

In us are infinite varieties of seeds -
Seeds of samsara, nirvana, delusion, and enlightenment,
Seeds of suffering and happiness,
Seeds of perceptions, names, and words.

... Are all stored in our consciousness.
That is why it is called "store". 

Some seeds are innate,
Handed down by our ancestors.
Some were sown while we were still in the womb,
Others were sown when we were children.

The quality of our life
Depends on the quality
Of the seeds
That lie deep in our consciousness.

Although a rather complicated idea, the basic premise is really very simple. Whether we experience the world with happiness, sadness, anger, peacefulness, fear, courage, greed, generosity ... all depends on the particular seeds which come to fruition.

But the good news is that we do have the power to nurture, and like a gardener, water and cultivate the wholesome seeds within us. We can often choose the seeds we wish to grow.  





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



(BENDOWA XXI)

As the chain reaction brought about by Zazen continues, we see all the world ... earth, grass and trees, stones, wind, water, fire, other sentient beings ... aid the person who sits Zazen to exhibit realization and know the Buddha's truth.

In turn, the person who sits Zazen, rising from the Zafu and in all her activities far and wide, spreads the Buddha-virtue to aid all who she impacts in her life.

'Tis a grand mutual benefit and support network!

  
_____________________________

At this time, everything in the universe in ten directions - soil, earth, grass, and trees; fences, walls, tiles, and pebbles - performs the Buddha's work. The people that receive the benefit thus produced by wind and water are all mystically helped by the fine and unthinkable influence of the Buddha, and they exhibit the immediate state of realization. All beings who receive and utilize this water and fire spread the influence of the Buddha in the original state of experience, so that those who live and talk with them also, are all reciprocally endowed with the limitless Buddha-virtue. Expanding and promoting their activity far and wide, they permeate the inside and the outside of the entire universe with the limitless, unceasing. unthinkable, and incalculable Buddha-Dharma..


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)


A Wondrous Chain Reaction

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(BENDOWA XX)

In this section of Bendowa, Master Dogen is using some powerful images to describe a kind of chain reaction brought about by Zazen ...

The person who sits Zazen "drops body and mind", thus attaining, experiencing and understanding the natural and pure mind of a Buddha. At that point, the person also, in her life, in countless ways ["the innumerable seats of truth of the Buddhas"], may rise from the Zafu and do "the Buddha's work" and have effect on so many other persons and events in this world (Uchiyama Roshi translates this as "The zazen person ... universally helps the buddha work in each place, as numerous as atoms, where buddha-tathagatas teach and practice"]. At that time too, she might truly see that the whole world ...  from the grass and trees to earth and stones ... also is part of this work, mutually connected, each doing what it does to support the whole ["everything in the universe in the ten directions ... performs the Buddha's work"].

The "non-self" fulfilling prophesy is realized!

In other words, we first deemed and tasted that a moment of sitting Zazen is the Buddha herself acting perfectly Buddha-like right there ... that the very sitting of Zazen  --is-- all the world right, just the way it should be ...

Then, by seeing all things as such, we allowed the mind to quiet, dropping thoughts and divisions ... whereby all the world is rendered quiet and whole.

Then, we rose from the cushion to live with that view, perhaps to help others via the wisdom of Buddhism ... perhaps to fix some wrongs in this world and make them right, and to teach the Buddha's wisdom to others so that they may know that same quiet and wholeness.

... thereby working to make the world right, even as we see it is alright.

... bringing peace and realization to others, even as we taste peace and realization.

... sensing that the whole world, every blade of grass and stone and grain of sand, is part of the game too.
  
_____________________________

These balanced and right states of realization also work the other way, following paths of intimate and mystical cooperation, so that this person who sits in Zazen steadfastly gets free of body and mind, cuts away miscellaneous impure views and thoughts [accumulated] from the past, and thus experiences and understands the natural and pure Buddha-Dharma. Throughout each of the infinitesimal, innumerable seats of truth of the buddha-tathagatas, [the practitioner] promotes the Buddha's work and spreads its influence far and wide over those who have the ascendant makings of a buddha, thus vividly uplifting the ascendant real state of buddha. At this time, everything in the universe in ten directions - soil, earth, grass, and trees; fences, walls, tiles, and pebbles - performs the Buddha's work.


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)


(for technical reasons, there will be no sitting broadcast today)

This is something I preach from time to time, but I thought it worth saying again. Perhaps it is good to shout it clearly. Namely, in Buddhism, we have a strange attitude toward life and the universe ...

I would not call us "theists". And I would not call us "atheists". Yet we have a very definite gratitude, faith and confidence in this realm in which we live.

For we see and experience clearly the deep interconnection of all phenomena of this world, taste that our birth in sentient form was not but random outcome, sense a reason and direction to human life and all of creation, honor this place, express deep gratitude, trust and a willingness to allow all to be.

We are not "theists", for we do not ultimately require or cling to a particular 'god' or 'gods' to run the show. (That's not to say that we can't if we wish, and one can be a Zen Buddhist or Zennist while a Christian, Muslim, Jew or the like. We can. We neither require a "god", nor push any god away.).

We are not "atheists", as we do not see reality through nihilistic eyes, as merely cold, dead, chaotic, random and pointless, without guiding hand, system or path. (Again, one might combine Zen practice with such an outlook, but it might make one's practice something cold and dead in result).

I sometimes compare our attitude to that of innocent babes with a deep trust in this source and world that birthed us, that feeds us and which somehow allows us air to breathe. Sure, it is not a perfect place as we might always wish it to be (and certainly, if I were in charge of its making, I might choose to do things a bit differently), but it is an amazing place and a miracle that we are here. Do you know all that was involved in allowing that to be, in allowing you to be ... from the stars ... to the flowers and trees ... every twist and turn of history and natural conditions that allowed you to be?

No, as the spring time comes following the winter, and life returns ... I say that we are grateful to that which allows it all to be, and us to be. Thank you.

In dropping our sense of separate self, we trade our limited perspective (as but tiny cogs, pointlessly spinning) for a vision of the whole "Universal Machine" ... 'tis precisely us, and we are that. Amazing!! AMAZING!

Perhaps what we have is a deep faith in "god" ... but without the need or demand to know her name, her story or all that she wishes of us. We place no demands upon her, even the demand that she be "god".

We are alive, so I expect we should live! Gee, if something or someone went to all the trouble to let that be possible, then we should just go ahead with it and live our life well

... and, though I think it unlikely, even if it all just happened for no purpose at all, we had best go ahead with it and live our life well!. In any case, live life well!

Seemingly, when we think of all the endless crossroads at which history might have gone otherwise ... all that was necessary for our lives to be here and now ... we should not be here. Yet here we are ... leading to the conclusion that we should be here. And whatever brought us here, we trust. Thank you.

We express a willingness to yield, to allow, to embrace. We Celebrate and Sink Right In!

AMAZING! Shout it from the Rooftops!

Endless deep bows of gratitude.


Making the Buddha's Wisdom Real ...

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(BENDOWA XIX)

Last time we saw how a moment of Zazen --is--Buddha sitting, makes all the world right, just the way everything should be.  

But it is not so simple as just saying that, for it must also work the other way ... and one must actually get free of body and mind, dropping judgments and harmful views, and thus realizing the Buddha-Dharma. 

Furthermore, one must thereafter rise from the cushion and live, as one can, by the Wisdom gained.

All go hand in hand.  That is what makes it a (non-)self fulfiling prophesy.

Let me try to explain in today's talk ...
  
_____________________________


When one displays the buddha mudra with one's whole body and mind, sitting upright in this samadhi even for a short time ... 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.


These balanced and right states of realization also work the other way, following paths of intimate and mystical cooperation, so that this person who sits in Zazen steadfastly gets free of body and mind, cuts away miscellaneous impure views and thoughts [accumulated] from the past, and thus experiences and understands the natural and pure Buddha-Dharma.


From: Talk on the Wholehearted Practice of the Way - Kosho Uchiyama (with Shohaku Okumura, Taigen Daniel Leighton) and 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 Buddha's Wisdom Made Real ...

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(BENDOWA XVIII)

In other words ...

    In a moment of sitting Zazen, you and all things of the universe are no less than the Buddha sitting Zazen under the Bodhi Tree, attaining realization and commencing to teach (the meaning of "turn the Dharma Wheel"), expounding and expressing the profound state of Prajna.

(Prajna is a wonderful term that means Buddhist wisdom, understanding, discernment ... grasping the heart of the Buddha's teachings and ending suffering.)

In other words ...

    If one sees Zazen, not merely as our trying to be a Buddha someday, but as the Buddha himself acting perfectly Buddha-like right there ... and if you see the very sitting of Zazen as making all the world right, and just the way it should be ... if if you see Zazen as the Buddha's wisdom made real ...

.... THEN IT MIGHT REALLY BE SO, AND YOU MIGHT ACTUALLY EXPERIENCE THAT.

SEEING ZAZEN AS SO, MAY TRULY MAKE THE WORLD SO 


  
_____________________________


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)



(BENDOWA XVII)

In very poetic language below, using many Buddhist images, Master Dogen is expressing a taste of the deep inter-connection of all the world and all beings. 

Well, recently someone in our Sangha wrote of a similar taste, but expressed in modern, ordinary language. Don't let the "daily life" packaging, and references to "e-mail" "the tv" "applesause" and the "kitchen floor" make it seem less. I find each expressing something that is not two ... (Thank you, K) ...

So, as I'm sitting here typing this message, trying to concentrate on what I'm feeling and to translate that feeling into words, I, my computer, my office, my feelings, my mind working, and the words I hear in my head are all a part of something whole which would not be whole without any of those things. And, when I get an email from work with some task for me to complete, and that email distracts me, and irritation arises, and the sound of my kids watching TV too loud and banging around upstairs distracts me, and irritation arises, the chime of that arriving email, my kids, the sound of the TV, the sound of the banging, my own mind which constructs distraction and irritation, all are a part of something whole which would not be whole without any of those things. And that something whole would be whole with or without any of those things, and it will still be whole one millisecond later when conditions have changed. And while all of those things are interdependent, as the irritation is dependent on the distraction which is dependent on the sound of the arriving email which is dependent on the person who sent the email etc etc, yet these things are all a part of something whole which includes everything, indeed IS everything?

As I was standing in my kitchen eating a bowl of cinnamon applesauce staring at the counter and the barstools and the tile floor, thinking "How is this barstool me?", a dropping of thinking and a widening of awareness led to a view of that single moment where me standing there in my kitchen eating a bowl of cinnamon applesauce staring at the counter and the barstools and the tile floor was one complete unhindered whole that contained all elements, and my conception of "me" was just another barstool, so to speak, and the reality was the totality of everything at once, outside of time or place or frame of reference.

  
_____________________________


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)


Happy Birthday Dear Buddha!

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happybuddhabirhtday.jpg




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


To subscribe to "Treeleaf Zen" click here.
I sometimes talk about an aspect of our Zen practice I call "acceptance without acceptance" ...

By that I mean an approach to all the ugly and painful aspects of life and this world which are just so hard (perhaps impossible) to accept.

We can accept and not accept simultaneously, repair what needs to be repaired.

I recall, for example, a dear zen-friend of mine who, facing a serious illness, accepted the condition fully, accepted that it is natural for us to all get sick sometimes - yet fought the good fight for a cure.

That is acceptance without acceptance.

Today, I would just like to add another perspective that makes us the mystics which we are ...

For besides merely accepting while not accepting  ... we might EMBRACE, CELEBRATE and SINK RIGHT IN! (and that includes the worst of it)!

Any garden is flowers and weeds ... life is beauty and ugliness (some of it heartbreaking). Yet we see ALL of that as life's nature. We not only accept and tolerate ... we GIVE THANKS FOR all sides of it.

There are stories of Hassidic Jews giving thanks and praise to their God while standing to march into the ovens during the Holocaust. Simple thanks for the time they had, and all until that moment. Asking nothing, needing nothing more.

Now, don't ever get this point wrong: Praising the weeds and wars and wrongs, and being thankful for all of it ... that does not mean we do not set to pulling weeds, fixing this world, righting wrongs.

Remember that in our Zen Practice, we are often tasting life from many perspectives at once, some downright opposed, some downright so crazy ... that it's as sane as sane can be.





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


Zen and the Flu (Ah chooo)

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How to "sit Zazen" when one has the flu, and can't even sit?

Just be "at one" with your runny nose, your aching bones, sneeze each sneeze as a perfect sneeze ...

and when you barf, taste that it is just the Buddha Barfing!

 

There is Just Barfing, and it is a wonder.

That's how.

 

 


nehan.jpg


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


Master 'Su su'

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The start of April is the day when we traditionally celebrate in the Zen world the birth of that great Vietnamese Zen Patriarch, Master 'Duc Tho' (or as he is more commonly known to those who love him 'Su su')

Master Duc Tho is, of course, well known in Asia and, for the last few decades, North America. I am not sure if he is that well known in Europe, so some folks sitting-a-long there may find this a bit hard to grasp.

 




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