March 2010 Archives

Sit-a-Long with Jundo: HAPPY TIMES!

| No Comments

Oh, it's a very happy day in our household, as my wife is back from about three weeks in the hospital following her surgery.  She's doing great, and joins us today for Zazen.  Nice to have her zafu back next to mine.

So, let's look at feeling happy on a happy day like this. Today's Sit-A-Long video follows.

Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.



For the 8th of the Ten Oxherding Pictures, Rev. Taigu offers this from Master Dogen's Shobogenzo Genjo-Koan:

To study the Buddha way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind as well as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away. No trace of realization remains, and this no trace continues endlessly.

"The place where everything is dropped, the action-non action of dropping things and self away, is what the 8th picture is about. All things go through that motion and dance, the dance of impermanence, forms have to go through that gateless gate where all reference points vanish to arise again. To truly and absolutely meet a tree, a flower, a friend, a sound, you have to go through the process where you forget totally anything about what is a tree, a flower, a friend or a sound. Otherwise, you would only meet dusty labels, names, memories, beliefs."

(Click through for more, and to watch today's talk and "sit-a-long.") 
.

"Dropping body-mind, forgetting the self is the roundness of the moon, this fully ripe moon which is also the true face of sitting. No trace of realization to be found there, for you are sitting as the very moonlight. The light doesn't see itself. But indeed, the light is seen all around, endlessly shining in countless things."

Today's Sit-A-Long video follows. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

The second spoke of the wheel of the "Eightfold Path" is "Right Intention" -- also expressed as Right AspirationRight Thought,or A Will to the Truth...

Now there are Buddhas, and there are Deluded Beings, and some say it will take so many lifetimes for us to become those Perfect Buddhas we aspire to be. Maybe so. But I believe that each of us can aspire, and can realize, so much of our Wise and Compassionate Buddha-ness even in this short life.

Indeed, "Right Aspiration" is our seeking, as best we can, for wholesome conduct through a commitment to Practice and the Buddha's Teachings. We aim to live in a way, as we can, which softens and frees us from so much of the dissatisfaction (Dukkha) brought about by inner desire and craving, while embracing life "just as it is." We aspire to see the world more and more through a Buddha's eyes and understanding, even though our deluded eyes are sometimes clouded over. We seek as best we can (and though sometimes falling down) to nurture good will and loving-kindness, reducing feelings of anger and aversion. We aspire to the avoidance of harm through thoughts, words or deeds, and to the development of Compassion.

The Four Vows, as we recite them in our Treeleaf Sangha, hold these aspirations though they are never (for now, at least) perfectly accomplished:

To save all sentient beings, though beings numberless
To transform all delusions, though delusions inexhaustible
To perceive Reality, though Reality is boundless
To attain the Enlightened Way, a Way non-attainable

In other words: "'Right Intention" is just the will to live, as best we can, a peaceful, wise, compassionate, healthful, and non-harmful life -- at one with life and the world as-they-are -- through our Buddhist Practice.

Though not yet "Perfect Buddhas" ... as the years go by, the sittings of Zazen go by, we do get better at it all!

(Click through to watch today's talk, and to "sit-a-long.")

Today's Sit-A-Long video follows. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

AND, JUST A REMINDER: As we do most Saturdays, we will have our weekly SATURDAY "LIVE FROM TREELEAF' 1-hour ZAZENKAI, and next week, on the first Saturday of the month, a 4-hour Zazenkai, both of which can be joined via NETCAST live or in real-time recorded form. (Details herePLEASE SIT-A-LONG, your Zafu is waiting!

To view all of Jundo and Taigu's SunSpace posts click here.

Rev. Taigu re-emerges with his next teaching on the Ten Oxherding Pictures. He writes:

"Once we  drop whip and rope, once we stop manipulating reality, it appears by itself and we understand that we are exactly at the same spot as we were when it all started. The ox has and has not disappeared, it is now perfectly merged with this life as it comes and goes, nothing special to chase or ride anymore, just this very being here and now ringing in all directions. We have given up the search and in this calm and serene scenery we can dwell. This is, in essence, a non dualistic stage, neither one nor two, ox and self just as this."

(Click through to watch today's talk, and to "sit-a-long.")

Today's Sit-A-Long video follows. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

The first branch of the '"Eightfold Path is Right View (sometimes calledRight Perspective or Right Understanding)...
.
That is: to study and to come to understand the world through fundamental Buddhist perspectives and philosophies, and to make those ways of seeing a natural part of one's life. The Four Noble Truths, The Eightfold Path, The Precepts, Impermanence, the Middle Way, Non-existence of the "self," Cause and Effect, Dependent Co-Origination, Buddhist views on time, life and death, the workings of the senses and mind... the words and insights of the Buddha and later teachers... the list goes on... (In fact, all that's the subject of this "Buddha-Basics" series!) Our Zazen Practice brings life to these doctrines, while each doctrine helps give shape and meaning to our Zazen.
.
But "Zen" is also said to be "a special transmission outside the scriptures, not dependent on words and letters," with legends of old Zen masters burning their Buddhist philosophy books. So:which view of "right view" is right?

.
Today's Sit-A-Long video follows
. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

(For folks looking for Rev. Taigu's series on the Oxherding Pictures... he should be here later this week.)

To view all of Jundo and Taigu's SunSpace posts click here.

Sit-a-Long with Jundo: I'M ANGRY!!

| No Comments

Well, I'm not angry right now ... but I do feel anger sometimes. The subject came up this week in our discussion forum at Treeleaf.org. Even after almost 30 years of Zazen, something at my work, in the news, or said or done by my kid or wife can still push my buttons, and I feel anger start to well up inside. I believe that, so long as we are human beings we will sometimes react in very human ways (at least until we are someday Perfect Buddhas beyond all anger). Unfortunately, our primitive brains are wired to all too easily fall into anger.

Of course, after almost 30 years of Buddhist Practice, I know for a fact that I do not usually react to anger as I would without this Practice. I am rarely, if ever, its prisoner. I believe that the start and arising of angry feelings is not as important as how we recognize them, redirect them, release them, are not trapped by them... do not act upon them, let them go.

(Click through to watch today's talk, and to "sit-a-long.")

In our next "sit-a-long" on Buddha-basics, I'll talk about how it's really necessary to develop good knowledge and insight into basic Buddhist philosophy, psychology and teachings on the workings of the "self"... because it is that "self" which is the prime culprit here. We need to become students of our "self's" reactions, and to develop a sensitivity to how anger arises within us, the triggers which tend to set it off, the first feeling of it starting to arise, the cycle it follows until vanishing, and methods to help that vanishing along. (One excellent tool is a practice to replace the mental seeds of anger with seeds of tolerance, patience, contentment, loving kindness and the like, of a kind as recommended by Thich Nhat Hanh and others... read a bit more here.)

As much as possible, we need to catch it as it is arising, not be sucked into it, not be entangled by it. Most importantly, we should not act out of our anger.

Today's Sit-A-Long video follows. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.



As the medicine for our self's dissatisfied, anxious, disappointed, searching, frustrated suffering dis-ease (Dukkha), the "Fourth Noble Truth"' prescribes "The Noble Eightfold Path."

Although the path is numbered sequentially, it is not generally seen as as series of steps, but instead (in modern terms) a "holistic lifestyle" which is to be developed more or less simultaneously, all linked together and each helping the cultivation of the others and, in turn, helped by the others.  For that reason, it is represented as the eight spokes of the Dharma Wheel, each supporting the entirety.
.

In the Zen schools, Zazen is valued as key, nurturing all of the path ... yet all the spokes, in turn, nurture Zazen.
.
(Click through to watch today's talk, and to "sit-a-long.") 
.
The eight elements are typically divided into three groups... and we'll talk about each of these elements over the coming days.
.
Wisdom (Sanskrit: prajñā) 
1.
 Right View 
2.
 Right Intention

Ethical Conduct (Sanskrit: śīla) 
3.
 Right Speech 
4.
 Right Action 
5.
 Right Livelihood

Mental Discipline (Sanskrit: samādhi) 
6.
 Right Effort 
7.
 Right Mindfulness 
8.
 Right Concentration

Today's Sit-A-Long video follows. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

To view all of Jundo and Taigu's SunSpace posts, including earlier installments ofZazen for Beginnersclick here.

Rev. Taigu again takes us for a ride with the next of the Ten Oxherding Pictures. He writes:

"Riding the bull home... As one mounts the bull, rides the bull, the world and practice itself  are not experienced as  obstacles anymore. The bull as an object to grasp, a goal to reach has disappeared. Practice and self are intimate. In this, carefreeness, detachment, joy arise from the silence space of sitting. The boy is not worried anymore about where he should go, where the bull takes him to, what the Bull-boy will become. As the comment sates: this struggle is over; gain and loss are assimilated. The song of the flute is played by ten thousand things met and released. Forms and sounds play and are played. This dance is nothing but the Bodhisattva stepping into the world, freely playing with what comes and goes, fully interacting with things and beings without being caught by any..."

(Click through to watch today's talk, and to "sit-a-long.")

Today's Sit-A-Long video follows. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.



Many thanks to the many people who wrote here and privately to ask about my wife. Her surgery went well. It was never life threatening, although there were some serious risks. Fortunately, it looks like she is on the mend, and we hope to have her home in about three weeks if all continues like this.

Today's Zazen 'sit-a-long' was recorded while she was still in the operating room. During the operation, my mind would sometimes turn to "what if's," worst case scenarios, thoughts of what life might be like without her or if the doctor's "could happens" came true ... and I felt worry. Some people might think that long time Zen folks are supposed to be beyond all fears and worry. But I do not think that is true for most that I know, and in fact, I do not think it would be a good thing even if so.

Rather, I find that Zen Practice offers ways to be totally free from fear and worry even amidhealthy fear and worry ... both ways of experiencing life experienced as one.

(Click through to watch today's talk, and to "sit-a-long.")

Some presentations of Buddhism seem to emphasize a state of total escape from fear and the like, as well as from many other sometimes negative human emotions. I have never been much attracted to that personally, although it may be a fine path for some. I honor and respect my fears, consider them a vital part of me, although I do not wish to be their prisoner, letting them run amuck with me, all to excess. Fortunately, in my belief, Mahayana Buddhism and the Zen schoolsfound ways to have human emotions AND BE FREE OF THEM TOO ... ALL AT ONCE. Instead of an either/or proposition of either having certain potentially harmful human emotions or not having them, perspectives were mastered whereby human emotions might be kept in healthy balance, in their proper place AND completely escaped, seen through and dropped away -at once.  In other words, the 'self' remains while the 'self' is fully gone, and both are known as one. The worry or similar emotion is present, balanced yet FULLY ESCAPED in one fell swoop.

Thus one can sit in a hospital room or other place of worry ... fearful, yet totally free of fear without the least division, as if bouncing back and forth between perspectives, sometimes seeing both as a whole ... as if covering the right eye to see life one way, then the left eye to see it another, then opening both eyes at once. It is, I believe, a good and healthy way to live.

We discover that there is nothing to fear from the start ... including nothing to fear about a little fear.

These Basic Buddhist Teachings are for right in the heart of life, today in a hospital room with my wife, the night before surgery. Times like these are the true proving ground.

This Practice has no purpose or value... and it is at moments like this one that its value and purpose are crystal clear.

In life, there's sickness, old age, death and loss... other very hard times... But that's not why 'Life is Suffering'. Not at all, said the Buddha.

.
Instead ... it's sickness, but only when we refuse the condition ...
...old age, if we long for youth ...
... death, because we cling to life ...
... loss , when we cannot let go ...
.
.. violated expectations, because we wished otherwise ...

(Click through to watch today's talk, and to "sit-a-long.")

Our "dissatisfaction," "disappointment,"' "unease" and "frustration" -- Dukkha -- arises as a state of mind, as our demands and wishes for how things "should be" or "if only would be for life to be content" differ from"the way things are." Your "self" wishes this world to be X, yet this world is not X. That wide gap of "self" and "not self" is the source of Dukkha.
.

Our Practice closes the gap; not the least separation.

What's more, even happiness can be a source of Dukkha if we cling to the happy state, demand that it stay, are attached to good news, material successes, pleasures and the like.. refusing the way life may otherwise go. That is also the "self" placing judgments and demands on life.

Fortunately, the Buddha provided the medicine for this disease of dis-ease: The Eightfold Path(which we will talk about in our next 'Buddha-Basics').

Oh, no amount of Practice can make times like these -- sitting in a hospital room, in pain and awaiting the surgeon's knife -- fun. It is natural to worry too. Yet all is revealed as somehow okay:okay beyond okayallowing all, yielding, flowing with the flowing, beyond worry (even in the heart of worry), resistance gone... letting it be.

The gap is closed. There is peace.

Today's Sit-A-Long video follows. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

To view all of Jundo and Taigu's SunSpace posts, click here.

Rev. Taigu again take the reigns to lead us through the next of the Ten Oxherding PicturesHe writes:

"Taming the bull is the story of discipline. One has to take the lead and establish a regular and steady practice. That is, at least, the traditional reading of this image. I would like to come forward with something very different: taming the bull can also be giving a specific direction to sitting, having goals and aims, and therefore we loose the original freedom of practice trying to make it fit our plans."

(Click through to watch today's talk, and to "sit-a-long.")

Today's Sit-A-Long video follows. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.



This is a special talk for all the Zen idealists out there, looking for perfect Zen teachers without a fault or failing, who think that "Enlightenment" means never making a mistake in the words out of one's mouth, and never having a "bad hair day" again. TIME TO COME DOWN FROM THE CLOUDS! Bring it down to this mud-covered earth which, if we open our eyes, is the "Pure Lotus Land" right here.

I believe that the only "perfect" masters are those that may exist in the the pages of old Zen stories, written when the real folks were long dead, scrubbing them clean of every blemish and failing. In fact, if we might travel back in time to meet these fellows "in the flesh," we would find that each and every one was probably just "people" like you and me, with good points and (likely) a few rough edges and minor bad habits... like all people. Okay, maybe extra-ordinarily Wise and Compassionate and Enlightened, sure ... but people.

Of course, "Enlightenment" is a realization that there is no place to fall, no self to stumble, no "mistake" that can ever be made. That is true. But it is just as true that there is no place to fall, no stumbling or possible mistake... even as we may fall and stumble and make mistakes!

(Click through to watch today's talk, and to "sit-a-long.")

A few days ago, an excellent article by Lewis Richmond appeared here on SunSpace entitled"'What If?' Guidelines for Choosing a Buddhist teacher". I would really like to recommend that article to everyone. If I may add my own "test" for finding a teaching, I would say find a man or woman who sometimes falls down, makes mistakes, makes a donkey's ass of him or herself... and observe closely what happens, watch how he or she does it. Oh, don't get me wrong... probably you do not want as a teacher someone who falls down each and every day, nor someone who falls down too BIG (robbing banks, lying profusely and intentionally starting fires, for example). No, I mean someone who... every so often, now and then, like everyone... makes a fool of him/herself, loses his Zen Master cool, over-indulges, does a real face-flop, says something she regrets, breaks some (hopefully not too big) Precepts in some very human way.

How does this person recover their balance? With what grace do they fall or, at least, get back up on their feetDo they profoundly reflect on their mistakes, learn from them, apologize sincerely to anyone hurt (hopefully not too badly) ... and move on?  As a matter of fact, since this crazy practice is greatly about living with some grace in this imperfect, often disappointing, trap and temptation filled world, a teacher with a couple of serious imperfections may be a good guide on how to avoid, lessen or escape the worst of it!

Oh, I am not trying to excuse any truly heinous abuses or scandals which have been seen among clergy of all traditions, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist no less. NOT AT ALL! I have little tolerance for members of the clergy who abuse their positions of trust and hurt others, sometimes children. But also we must be cautious of anyone who wants to be our teacher by telling us that they arebeyond all failings, never ever break a Precept (not even the small ones), are "Perfectly Enlightened Beings" who never trip and fall down. I'll believe it when I see it!

Certainly, it is true that within Enlightenment, there is no place to fall, nothing which can be a mistake. Yet, in this world of Samsara where we live, I do not think there is anyone who gets away always without cuts and bruises and difficult days. (Anyone who thinks that Zen practice is going to ensure that they never have another "bad day" is in for a bad surprise. Whether we fully "drop good and bad" or not, we must live in a world sometimes real good and real bad.) Sure, this "self" is but an illusion... and so are all the other "selfs" in this world, but we are going to bump and bang into each other sometimes nonetheless. The hole you stumble in may be like a dream, and ultimately there is no place to fall. But fall into that hole and break your imaginary leg, you may!

Zen Practice shows us how to move through life leaving no traces.

Yet is is darn hard to get through this daily life without stirring up some waves, catching some mud, making some sparks. Falling off our bicycle into a ditch.

Today's Sit-A-Long video follows. (Please excuse that the soundtrack and video are not perfectly in sync. PERFECTLY fitting for a talk on imperfection!)Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

The entire "Sit-a-Long with Jundo: BUDDHA-BASICS" series is found here ...

http://www.treeleaf.org/forum/viewforum.php?f=21


Were going to start a new series of Sit-a-Long with Jundo's on somefundamental Buddhist teachings -- those things every Buddhist needs to know -- and maybe the most fundamental, insightful and elegant is the Buddha's teaching of the Four Noble Truths, and Dukkha:
.

Life is Dukkha; there is a cause for Dukkha; there is a way to the cessation of Dukkha; that way is the Noble Eightfold Path.

So, what's "Dukkha"? ...and what does Dukkha do?

(Click through to watch today's talk, and to "sit-a-long.")

.
No one English word captures the full depth and range of the Pali term, Dukkha. It is sometimes rendered as "suffering," as in "life is suffering." But perhaps it's better expressed as "dissatisfaction," "anxiety," "disappointment," "unease at perfection," or "frustration" -- terms that wonderfully convey a subtlety of meaning.

In a nutshell, Your "self" wishes this world to be X, yet this world is not X. The mental state that may result to the "self" from this disparity is Dukkha.
.

Shakyamuni Buddha gave many examples:  sickness (when we do not wish to be sick), old age (when we long for youth), death (if we cling to life), loss of a loved one (as we cannot let go), violated expectations, the failure of happy moments to last (though we wish them to last). Even joyous moments -- such as happiness and good news, treasure or pleasant times -- can be a source of suffering if we cling to them, if we are attached to those things.

In ancient stories, Dukkha is often compared to a chariot's or potter's wheel that will not turn smoothly as it revolves. The opposite, Sukkha, is a wheel that spins smoothly and noiselessly, without resistance as it goes.

Fortunately, Shakyamuni Buddha also provided the Dukkha cure.

Today's Sit-A-Long video follows. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

To view all of Jundo and Taigu's SunSpace posts, including earlier installments ofZazen for Beginnersclick here.

Rev. Taigu  continues his series of talks on the Ten Oxherding Pictures. He writes:

Getting hold of the tail is the moment were we may think we have got it. The gesture is firm, the grasp strong and the will to tame the ox very much alive. If we stay there, we may think with pride that the journey is over and that our understanding is stronger than anybody else's. A lot of arrogance coupled with struggle are yet noticeable, the attitude is stiff and the sitting rigid as well as the views, the many views we have about things and people. We are drunk with views and opinions, intoxicated with ideas and judgments. This kind of attitude and the state of body-mind characterized by this picture can be seen on various blogs and forums over the internet where people, hidden behind the anonymity and safe veil of their computer screens throw abusive language and display violence, lies, all sorts of judgments being made about people and situations they know nothing or very little about. Internet magnifies the imperfections and problems. You may have a look at how this teenage zen (teenage Zen, because self-infatuation and violence hiding a very poor self image is precisely one of the main problems of adolescence) creeps on line. It also curses our blood. We have to pay attention and come back to not knowing. It is so tempting to freeze every living experience into an asset, something to treasure, to own.

(Click through to watch today's talk, and to "sit-a-long.")

If you would like to view Rev. Taigu's previous sit-a-longs on the Ten Oxherding Pictures (links open in new windows):

Today's Sit-A-Long video follows. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.