January 2012 Archives

 Our "Sit-a-Long with Jundo & Taigu" weekly Talks & Zazen  blog is MOVING from here TO SWEEPINGZEN.COM the comprehensive biographical database and resource on all things Zen Buddhism, featuring interviews, articles, and much more.  SO, STARTING FROM TODAY, please sit with us at the following link:

http://sweepingzen.com/category/blogs/s ... and-taigu/

and if you wish to be notified of new posts by RSS Feed:

http://feeds.feedburner.com/SweepingZen ... JundoTaigu

You can also access our Sit-a-Longs within our Treeleaf Forum too:


So, we hope that you will join us for Zazen as always ... just there-here instead of here-here

Gassho,  Jundo & Taigu               

SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: Dogen is SO OLD!

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Image This week, Japanese Lineages of Soto Zen celebrate the 811th BIRTHDAY OF MASTER DOGEN! YEA! YIPPEE!


Oh, don't misunderstand! So many of Dogen's Teachings are FOR ALL TIMES AND ALL PLACES. In fact, his vision of Time and TimelessnessBEING-TIME, is ALL TIME IN EVERY TIME, THIS TIME AS TOTALLY THIS TIME AND THAT TIME, ITS OWN TIMELY TIME, EACH TIME OR HALF TIME JUST A WHOLE TIME, A WORMHOLE-TIME, A RABBIT HOLE TIME ...THE WHOLE HOLY TIME. Dogen once-upon-a-time wrote this ... 

Do not think that time merely flies away. Do not see flying away as the only function of time. If time merely flies away, you would be separated from time. The reason you do not clearly understand the time-being is that you think of time only as passing. In essence, all things in the entire world are linked with one another as moments. Because all moments are the time-being, they are your time-being. The time-being has the quality of flowing. So-called today flows into tomorrow, today flows into yesterday, yesterday flows into today. And today flows into today, tomorrow flows into tomorrow. 

In my way of reading the old boy, DOGEN IS A RIFFING JHANA JAZZ MAN-POETfree expressing-bending-unbinding-reexpressing-releasing the 'standard tunes' of the Sutras and Koans, making time and keeping time in syncopation of time ... 

Zen master Guixing of She Prefecture ... taught the assembly:

For the time being mind arrives, but words do not. 
For the time being words arrive, but mind does not. 
For the time being both mind and words arrive.
For the time being neither mind nor words arrive.

Both mind and words are the time-being. Both arriving and not-arriving
are the time-being. When the moment of arriving has not appeared, the moment
of not-arriving is here. Mind is a donkey, words are a horse.
Having-already-arrived is words and not-having-left is mind. Arriving is not
"coming," not-arriving is not "not yet."

That's Dogen-Time, Man! Digg It! 

But sometimes Dogen is JUST A MAN OF HIS CULTURE AND TIMES, preaching about things with limited relevance today. You can take Dogen out of ancient samurai Japan, but you cannot take the ancient Japanese samurai out of Dogen. I find him sometimes obsessive, sometimes grumpy, sometimes naive and ill informed, sometimes perhaps downright wrong in his advice then and now (as in this guidance to a prospective monk on leaving his old infirm mother to fend for herself)

A monk inquired,

"My aged mother is still alive. I am her only son. She lives solely by my support. Her love for me is especially deep and my desire to fulfill my filial duties is also deep. ... If I leave the world and live alone in a hermitage, my mother cannot expect to live for even one day. 

Dogen instructed,

If you abandon your present life and enter the Buddha-Way, even if your mother dies of starvation, wouldn't it be better for you to form a connection with the Way and for her to permit her only son to enter the Way? Although it is most difficult to cast aside filial love even over aeons and many lifetimes, if, having being born in a human body you give it up in this lifetime, when you encounter the Buddha's teachings you will be truly fulfilling your debt of gratitude. Why wouldn't this be in accordance with the Buddha's will? It is said that if one child leaves home to become a monk, seven generations of parents will attain the Way.

http://global.sotozen-net.or.jp/common_ ... 03-14.html


(Also, to the mention of "many lifetimes" I offer another agnostic 'Hmmm'.)

At other times, Dogen spoke out of Both Sides of His No-Sided Mouth, for example, sometimes saying this about the practice of lay folks (usually when writing to lay folks, as here in Bendowa)

Q: Can a layman practice this zazen or is it limited to priests?

A: The patriarchs have said that to understand Buddhism there should be no distinction between man and woman and between rich and poor. ... It has nothing to do with being either a priest or a lay man. Those who can discern excellence and inferiority will believe Buddhism naturally. Those who think that worldly tasks hinder Buddhism know only that there is no Buddhism in the world; they do not know that there is nothing that can be set apart as worldly tasks in Buddhism. ... All this tells us that worldly tasks do not hinder Buddhism. ... In the age of the Buddha, even misguided criminals were enlightened through his teachings. Under the patriarchs, even hunters and woodcutters were enlightened. And others will gain enlightenment. All you have to do is to receive instructions from a real teacher.

At other times, later times in his life, Dogen changed his tune. When speaking to his band of "all boy" monks in a 13th century monastery in the snowy boondocks, you can often hear him, in talks from this period, dealing with real "human to human" issues in the monastery. A lack of donors and hard economic times, rough food and no money to fix the roof. From what we know of the Eiheiji monks, a hodgepodge of refugees with various spiritual and personal backgrounds,Dogen's work was sometimes like herding cantankerous cats. You can hear in his voice the coach or commander, trying to keep up the sometimes flagging morale among his "men" ... men probably sometimes wondering why they'd left the comforts of home life and town to live and sit through the hard, cold, long, lonely winter days in a monastery in the middle of nowhere. No easy task, unless you preach a little "fire and brimstone". He would say such things as (in Shobogenzo Shukke)

Clearly know that the attainment of the way by all Buddhas and ancestors is only accomplished by leaving the household and receiving the precepts. ... None of those who have not left the household are Buddha ancestors

Breaking the precepts as a home leaver is better than keeping them as a layperson. You cannot experience emancipation by keeping the precepts as a layperon."


If Dogen had not been driven out of town with his small band of monks, his ecumenical dreams a bit tarnished, forced to take retreat in the lonely cold and snow of remote Echizen Province ... would he have later become so seemingly closed to lay practice? I wonder. But, no matter ... for Dogen was a man of many moods and visions, and even Dogen is not the "final word" on what Soto Zen is or is not, and who can practice and who cannot, on what "home leaving" is or is not. 

Dogen was a genius, beyond doubt. He was also a man with strong, personal views and opinions. Although someone may be truly gifted in some aspects, and have All the Answers ... be it spiritual or otherwise ... he/she need not have all the answers in every part of their life, having every answer to every life question. Mozart, a genius, was nonetheless not so on all matters and all music for all times. It is enough for me that Dogen, or any of the Buddhas and Ancestors, pierced to the heart of how this mind-self-universe works ... even if their particular social or scientific views, or views on daily conduct or how to treat one's mother ... can be taken with a grain of salt. One need not live in a 13th century Japanese monastery to find the heart of these Teachings!

Master Dogen was sometimes just a man of his place and time, with views not necessarily always right for our times. 


Today's Sit-A-Long video follows at this link. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 15 to 35 minutes is recommended

SIT-A-LONG with Taigu: Rituals

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JUKAI! JUKAI! JUKAI! at Treeleaf Sangha

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Well, the time has again arrived for our annual Jukai (Undertaking the Precepts) Ceremony, netcast live earlier today from Treeleaf Sangha.

Our 17 Preceptees came together simultaneously from 6 countries (from Iran to Greece to Mexico) joining in this Jukai as one, after having spent several months preparing for this day, studying the Precepts, sewing a rakusu, weighing the place of the Buddhist Teachings in their life. 

As with everything at Treeleaf, all was accomplished fully online. We hope you will celebrate with us.

If you would like to witness via video our Precepts Ceremony, you may do so at the link below.

Jukai literally means to receive or to undertake the Precepts. It is the ceremony both of one's formally committing to the Buddhist Sangha and to the Practice of Zen Buddhism, and of one's undertaking the "Sixteen Mahayana Bodhisattva Precepts" as guides for life. Traditionally for Jukai, one receives from a teacher the Rakusu, which represents the robe of the Buddha, the Kechimyaku, a written lineage chart connecting the recipient to the Buddhas and Ancestors of the past, and a "Dharma name" selected by the teacher and representing qualities of the recipient's personality and practice.

My teacher, Nishijima Roshi, has written this:

When a Buddhist seeks to commence upon the study of Buddhism, there is first a ceremony which should be undertaken: It is called "Jukai," the "Receipt of the Precepts," the ceremony in which one receives and undertakes the Precepts as a disciple of the Buddha... Master Dogen specifically left us a chapter entitled '"Jukai," in which it is strongly emphasized that, when the Buddhist believer first sets out to commence Buddhist practice... be it monk, be it lay person, no matter... the initial needed steps include the holding of the ceremony of Jukai and the undertaking of the Precepts... The rationale of all of the Buddhist Precepts, the Mahayana Boddhisattva Precepts [...] is as a pointing toward the best ways for us to live in this life, in this real world... how to live benefiting both ourselves and others as best we can.




Image Folks often ask about how long, and how often, to sit.

After much reflection, Taigu and I have decided to recommend to folks that they may sit Zazen for even just 15 MINUTES, ONCE-A-DAY.

That may be controversial among some 'Zennies', seen as too "lightweight" by many ... easily misjudged and misunderstood as "breaking the rules" or "not sufficiently serious" (though I have since heard of some other Soto teachers who even allow some struggling beginners to sit 5 or 10 minutes a day). 

But our way is "goalless, non-attaining" ... the attaining of which is the Greatest Goal! A moment of sitting is a moment of Buddha realized! Certainly, sitting is not (when tasted as suchness) a matter limited by time or space, long or short in place or duration. In a moment of True Sitting, time is still ... even as it keeps flowing! 

Our message around here is that "life is our temple". By this I mean that daily seated Zazen "on the Zafu" is indispensible and not to be skipped ... but also that ALL OF LIFE on and off the Zafu is "Zazen" in its wider meaning! Opportunities for 'Zazen' are sitting, standing, running, walking or flying through the air ... chanting sutras or changing diapers ... ALL ZAZEN when known as such. Nonetheless, Even though "all of life is Zazen" ... daily, seated Zazen is indispensible too and must be sat! :shock: 

Yet ... on a purely practical level ... our Sangha members are generally very busy people, barely time to sit for 30 minutes even once ... let alone twice ... a day. I believe that many folks run from Zazen ... or do not sit daily ... because they simply do not have the time and/or patience.I would rather have folks sitting daily, and consistently, than not at all or only once in awhile. 

Actually, there have been many views on the proper length of sitting during the history of Zen. Even Dogen, our Patriarch, while interpreting seated Zazen as sacred and 'Buddha realizing Buddha', also proposed all of life as sacred and 'Buddha realizing Buddha'. Dogen kept a monastic time schedule, with certain periods of Zazen fixed per day ... but, like all things in a monastery, each single sitting was seen as a timeless and complete ritual. In other words, even Dogen did not see Zazen as bound by time, or specifically recommend that one had to sit a set time each day, and saw each instant of sitting as an expression of All-Time and Being. 

So then, why "15 minutes" ... and not "1 minute" or "5 minutes" or "5 hours" or "1 second"? 

On a practical level, I think our busy working people can find 15 minutes a day, and such is just sufficient time to settle down the mind, release thoughts and emotions, and taste a period of timelessness. Any shorter is TOO SHORT to taste timelessness because ... like a storm or turbulent water, it takes a few minutes to clear and still a bit. In principle, sitting could be a moment or half a moment. However, a few minutes are usually required to allow for making the mental and physical transition from our busy day to this sacred moment ... in order to settle.After all, it takes a little bit of time to taste Timelessness! 8) Also, we needed to pick some number ... so might as well be that (like so many of our arbitrary "traditions" in Buddhism). 

So, what is our "Official Recommendation" at Treeleaf Sangha?

A - Committing to sit at least one (1) sitting on the Zafu per day of 15 minutes (more if the person wants, but not required at all. IF YOU ARE NOW SITTING LONGER, AND COMFORTABLE WITH THAT, If SUCH FEELS RIGHT IN ONE'S LIFE ... KEEP AT IT! But, if you are struggling to maintain longer daily sittings, it is fine to shorten your sitting time. It is more important to be consistent in sitting daily for 15 minutes ... and taste Timelessness and Wholeness in one's sitting ... than to sit for 30 minutes but miss many days, or be lost in thoughts of goals and achievement). HOWEVER, sitting only 15 minutes 1 time daily must be combined with several daily moments of "Insta-Zazen!" © (as described in this talk) ...


B - Committing to at least one (1) longer sitting of 30 to 45 minutes once per week which, if possible, should be combined with joining in all of our weekly 90 minute Zazenkais

C - If at all possible, committing to join in at least one (1) four hour Zazenkai at Treeleaf per month

D - If at all possible, committing to attend one longer residential "Sesshin" per year of from 3 to 7 days. 

Now, someone might ask too, "if each moment is all time and space, what is the purpose of an intensive Sesshin?" Well, I often say that, sometimes, we need to practice a bit long and hard, morning to night ... sitting and wrestling with 'me, my self and I' ... all to attain Nothing to Attain! Going to Retreats, Sesshin and such is a powerful facet of this Practice and not to be missed.

So, WELCOME TO "THE 15-Minute Sit"

Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 15 to 35 minutes is recommended.
Image I have been having a little back-and-forth with Rev. Dosho Port about some statements made on his blog, in a post aptly titled "Who Gets to Say Anyway?" ...

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wildfoxzen ... nyway.html

There are many Paths up and down the no-mountain mountain, each suited to sentient beings with differing needs. I believe that there are students who may benefit from Koan introspection alone, and those who will not. There are student who will benefit from Shikantaza alone, and those who will not. And there are students who may benefit from some combination, and those who will not. All beautiful paths, suited (or not) to different people. 

So I was rather saddened and surprised to see Dosho express a seemingly narrow view of Koan teaching, stating ...

Soto priests without koan training comment on koans regularly (including myself in my nefarious past). ... Now that I've done some koan training, I confess to this hubris in my own past and from my current perspective would like to encourage my Soto non-koan trained friends to consider the possibility that there might well be something in a koan that they have not seen from their shikantaza perspective.

I wrote him back to say I agree with his comment that Shikantaza practitioners might not see or teach Koans as Dosho's school or sect teaches, but that, in turn, those other folks "should consider that there may be something in Koans that they have not tasted in their dreams without piercing the purity of Shikantaza". When I informed Dosho that our Treeleaf Community would soon begin dancing with the Book of Equanimity (the Shōyōroku), a collection of Koans much cherished in the Soto world for nearly 1000 years, Dosho wrote:

Seriously, I suggest that you don't. From what I've read of your views on koan and shikantaza, I wonder if you might be misleading your community by working through koan with them - koan that you yourself have not worked through with anybody. Perhaps qualifying what your doing by saying that this is just your view....

Hmmm. Respectfully, that seems a very narrow vision of the Gateless Gate to Buddhist Truth! Dosho did not wish to continue the discussion on his own blog. So, I thought to respond here and invite Rev. Dosho or anyone to offer views (provided one doesn't omit the non-views too!:) 


Today's Sit-A-Long video follows at this link. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 15 to 35 minutes is recommended