View Full Version : [Challenging Times] - (4) - Emergency Spirituality - Byakuren Judith Ragir

03-24-2023, 07:25 AM
Dear All,

First, you may notice that we are skipping, for now, the essays "Cutting the World in Two" by Myozen Blacker and "I Hate Donald Tr***" by Zenki Mary Mocine. This is just due to scheduling, as Rev. Mocine will be joining us at Treeleaf as a Guest Teacher in late April and Rev. Blacker in May. Of course, you can read their essays now, but we will not discuss them until around their visits in the coming weeks.

For today, we will turn for the next couple of weeks to "Emergency Spirituality" by Rev. Judith Ragir, from page 77, another powerful message about dealing with life and practice in a time of medical crisis. It especially deals with fear, frustration, how to get through. She reached for many tools of the Zen and Buddhist tool bag to help her, including Tonglen, as we practice here at Treeleaf.

Personally, I am not much for Mantras and Dharani, but I also believe that, in times of urgency, turn to anything that offers strength and power. I am not a big "prayer" fellow (my "prayer" is more an attitude of -not- asking for anything), but I also admit that, at times, when I was sick or my wife or kids were sick, I turned to "wink at the sky," asking for any help I might get. It sure can't hurt to ask! [happy]

What works for you at such times?

By the way, Rev. Ragir is unable to join us for a live appearance this time, due to scheduling issues with other projects, but she sends her regards and hopes that the chapter is helpful to folks.

Gassho, Jundo


03-25-2023, 03:47 PM
I love this book, and this chapter is no exception. Iím not a big mantra person; I do pray. I consider myself a Zen Christian whatever that means lol I just try to feel my emotions without reacting, sort of observing them in zazen; easier said than done.

I also concur that when I get stuck and obsessed on my own problems instead of focusing on my own healing, thoughts of benefitting others around me makes me feel connected and more grounded. I feel like itís sort of in our programming (buddha nature) that helping others brings true stability, which is why metta practice and not doing zazen for oneself and in the chanting we include all sentient beings reframes our thinking and I find that very helpful

please forgive the grammar lol



03-26-2023, 02:17 AM
I especially liked the Evening Gatha, Divine Abodes, and the translation of the ending of the Heart Sutra. Tonglen and the Divine Abodes done as we do the Loving Kindness verses for everyone in a waiting room and the hospital would be helpful in stopping the mind from spinning out of control.

Sat lah

03-30-2023, 12:38 AM
My biggest takeaway from this chapter was the author’s heavy reliance on chants and Gathas as part of her practice. That isn’t something I feel I need. Admittedly my life is good. If my life was spinning out of control or I was suffering significant hardships maybe I might be inclined to seek refuge in chants and Gathas.

Sat today and lah

Shōnin Risa Bear
03-30-2023, 02:11 AM
Metta Sutta


ds sat

03-30-2023, 04:55 AM
Hi all

I guess the title 'emergency spirituality' justifies the focus on mantras and gathas. When an editor puts together a collection of essays it is nice when there is some breadth in the author's voices, so while I'm not much of a dharani-guy, I appreciate the sentiment of the soothing focus that chanting and reciting can bring in times of great distress. She opens with the five remembrances and I think this is an essential buddhist teaching. I find value in the metta practice but I am not very good at visualisation any more, so practices like tonglen don't really work for me. But our path is both wide and narrow at the same time but our minds should not be narrow in accepting the value of the practice of others, for them and potentially for others.

Gassho, Tokan


03-30-2023, 12:46 PM
I spent a number of years practicing in a local yoga sangha before I found Treeleaf. The main practices were chanting and silent mantra meditation. I try to sit with what is present during emergencies (or what feels like one), but there are times when my anxiety gets the better of me and I will use a mantra to avoid being completely overwhelmed. I don’t think there is any special magic in the words. They just provide a good anchor.

I tend to use the Metta verses or Tonglen more when I’m irritated, such as sitting in traffic or stuck on a crowded subway train. It lifts me out of my petty concerns and helps me feel connected to the people around me. I’ll keep these in my pocket for my next md visit though.

What I really appreciate about this book is seeing how these teachers are being with their challenges in such varied ways.

st lah

03-30-2023, 03:50 PM
I also enjoyed this chapter and remember from reading it before the part of her chanting the Jizo mantra on her way down the mountain in the rescue toboggan!

She has a lot of emergency practices, and I use some of them, although tend just to keep things really simple when things get tough. As regards chanting mantras, this is something I often do to still my mind during difficult times, especially of intense pain, but rarely for any 'magical' effect. When one of my children was seriously ill, however, I was chanting Jizo mantras for all I was worth, and leaving offerings in front of my small statue. Was her recovery due to that? I have no idea but you can be sure if it happens again I will be doing the same!


03-30-2023, 05:12 PM
The key word in this chapter is the first word in the title-Emergency. I do not view this
as advice for regular daily practice as much as having some things in the tool kit for a
time of crisis. I have worked with people in emergency situations to create a positive
mantra they can repeat to refocus thoughts that drag them to a hell realm. A mantra
can also provide energy for persons facing addiction issues that can dominate their
consciousness. When a person has a knee or hip replacement a mantra such as pain
is the path of healing can overcome a sense of defeat and resistance. This chapter
calls us to look for tools to live the Bodhisattva path.

Gassho,peace, Paul sat lah

03-31-2023, 05:12 PM
I've recently been trying to memorise the Heart Sutra after spending way too long just reading along or listening to it when sitting with the zazenkai recordings.

By coincidence, a couple of weeks ago I started having heightened anxiety while in a meeting at work. I have a history of anxiety attacks, including to the point of fainting on a few occasions, which are pretty rare these days but I was worried this was heading in the same direction. For whatever reason, I figured I'd try and chant the Heart Sutra in my head to see if that helped de-escalate my anxiety. Having something really specific to focus on instead of getting swept up in the attack was pretty effective in calming my mind, and the anxiety passed quicker than it usually does. So this was an interesting chapter for me to read so soon after that happening.

I love how varied this book is. It gives readers so many tools of practice to draw from in difficult situations.


04-01-2023, 01:53 PM
The latest Zen of Everything Podcast was a bit inspired by this chapter ...

... Episode 97 ... Prayer ...

Is there prayer in zen? Or not a prayer?


Gassho, Jundo


04-03-2023, 05:25 PM
This chapter was interesting.

I have very little experience of mantras but I would agree with some of the other posts here - they can be used as part of a toolkit to focus our thoughts in those situations where they are running away from us. I don't think these have any special 'powers' to do anything aside from turning our thoughts to what is important to help us through a crisis. Its a little different to 'thinking nice thoughts' in times of difficulty, which is really just distracting the mind from what is really going on. This seems more about redirecting thoughts to aspects of practice that will help us deal with the emergency situation.

I liked the Five Remembrances gatha/mantra that was quoted at the start of the chapter. I was just wondering, is this something I could incorporate into my own sittings?

Heikyo / Paul
Sat today

04-08-2023, 05:58 PM
I liked the Five Remembrances gatha/mantra that was quoted at the start of the chapter. I was just wondering, is this something I could incorporate into my own sittings?

Heikyo / Paul
Sat today

I incorporate the Heart Sutra, metta and the Verse of Atonement and Four Vows into most of my sittings (when I'm short on time, I skip the Heart Sutra and metta verses).

This chapter really gave me some food for thought and inspiration; I know that these tools exist, but I don't practice them so that I can use them readily when needed. I feel that I should, because I get caught off guard in a stressful situation and don't think to use tools like this.