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Thread: What is the essence that is transmitted?

  1. #1
    Yugen
    Guest

    What is the essence that is transmitted?

    I’ve spent a considerable amount of time with my friend Tim Buckley over the last several months as he faced his diagnosis and realized that there was a finite limit on the number of things he wanted to accomplish – a matter of too many things to do and not enough time to finish them in – he came face to face with the great matter – the fact of his own demise. In this time he began to wonder, as he approached dharma transmission, what exactly is transmitted in a particular lineage. Put another way, what is the essence that is transmitted?

    He was quick to point out that this “essence” often distinguishes one lineage from another. He asked me what the essence of my lineage was – and this served as material for a series of conversations through the late summer, autumn, and into early winter. Though there is no one “right” answer, I’d like to share with you my thoughts on this question as it pertains to our lineage, and it’s relationship to the precepts as we approach a Jukai ceremony later this week.

    The Renpo Niwa / Gudo Nishijima lineage in which our Teacher Jundo (and we) reside is best known I believe for the belief that zen practice and enlightenment are not restricted to a monastic setting or particular social class or group – i.e., monks, warriors, or landed nobility and aristocrats. Renpo Niwa began ordaining people outside of Eiheiji – Gudo Nishijima being an example. Perhaps he realized that Zen was in meed of diversification, even reinvigoration - monastic walls had begun to stifle Zen Buddhism and render it socially and ontologically arteriosclerotic. Our lineage is known for breaking down the boundaries between ordained and monastic practice – Nishijima and our teacher Jundo, and Nishijima’s other dharma heirs (Gustav Erickson and Bard Warner for example) are “out in the world” – they have professional lives and day jobs in addition to their zen ministries…..

    Our lineage represents the belief that zen must evolve if it is to be resilient, lively, and relevant. Our place of practice is not only the zendo, it is our families, the kitchen, the backyard, the place of employment, the hospital, the mountaintop. Life presents us with a dizzying number of opportunities to practice – and as a Sangha we support one another in that practice. We are “good friends” to one another – priests are not authority figures or disciplinarians. We are not a lineage of Samurai or Tokugawa era landholders – our zen is not martial – you might have heard the term “farmer zen” – ours is a lineage of householders who work the land, work the field and fabric of life. Our teachers and priests are guides – fellow practitioners whose human, errors, missteps and suffering are just as instructive as their dharma talks – maybe more so.

    Which brings us to the precepts. The precepts are not a list of proscriptions or rules to be followed on a checklist – this is to render them lifeless, uninspiring, and even unhelpful. The precepts are something we live in every moment of our lives – and we take vows to uphold them, to strive to follow them. And then two minutes later, we invariably break them.

    Why then take vows to uphold precepts knowing we shall fail, over and over, in the process? Why will we make in the course of our practice and lives what my dear friend Zenshin Tim Buckley terms “mistake after mistake?”

    These mistakes provide an endless source of material for our practice. And as Kosho Uchiyama teaches us, we enter the cycle of vow and repentance. We take vows knowing that as human beings we shall fall short. And we also vow to repent – to take responsibility for our actions and set about on the path once again - a journey that will take all our lives.

    The precepts provide a guide for achieving the clarity that is needed to “realize” practice and our lives in the present moment – if we abuse sexuality, misuse intoxicants, use deceitful or harmful speech, or disparage the three treasures, there is all sorts of clutter between us and a clear path to freedom. The precepts provide the means to existential freedom – and clarity of practice. "It" is available to us here - now - and the precepts point us in that direction. It is perhaps our destiny and nature to look for things everywhere but right in front of us - which is why we have practice, and guidelines to practice. The precepts are breadcrumbs that provide a trail back to ourselves . Our sanghamates are fellow travelers we meet along the way. We share sustenance and stories, then go on our way.

    Our lineage holds that all our lives are our practice – that the walls of our zendo are delineated by heaven and earth an all that is in between. Our lineage stands for the knowledge that where those who follow us take the tradition is uncharted territory – there is great faith – faith that the tradition will take forms we do not recognize and at the same time remain true to its origins – and great doubt – doubt sufficient to encourage a lifelong search for individual truth – and the great determination to stay on this difficult path.

    For these dynamics to carry the tradition forward Zen must remain resilient, lively, even playful – it must leave the walls of convention – its practitioners are responsible for its essence and at the same time for its freedom.

    Please consider this as you prepare for Jukai, and support one another in practice. Where are you going to take your practice? Where will you take our tradition? How are you going to care for it? How will you give it meaning? How are you going to live it?

    We are all responsible. Not just priests, but all of us. Where it goes is up to you.

    This, I would submit to you, is the essence of our lineage.

    Peace, explore, and never give up.

    Deep bows
    Yugen
    Last edited by Yugen; 01-05-2015 at 03:15 AM.

  2. #2
    Thank you, Yugen. Your wise and inspirational words are great assurance that this is the place for practice for this beginner.

    Gassho
    John
    sat today
    Last edited by Meishin; 01-05-2015 at 04:18 AM.

  3. #3
    Yugen,

    Thank you so very much for this teaching. It has come just at the right time before Jukai. And has perfectly tied together some of the things we have spoken about offline. Thank you, thank you and thank you again.

    Gassho,

    Bryson

    sat today

  4. #4
    Kyotai
    Guest
    Yugen, thank you for these words. Bryson and John have said it well, and so it goes for me as well.

    Gassho, Shawn
    Sat today

  5. #5

    What is the essence that is transmitted?

    Thank you Yugen. I have a better understanding of our lineage. Deep bows


    _|sat2day|_

  6. #6
    That was beautifully written Yugen. Thank you!

    Gassho,
    Steven
    #sat today

  7. #7
    Yugen,
    thank you for speaking of so much love.
    To and of your dear friend, Zenshin Tim Buckley, who raised this impressive question at such a time of hardship.
    My heart opened to him for discussing this with you.
    Of your love to our lineage, to our practice, to the sangha.
    As you are writing this, whom am I thanking?
    The leaf, the tree, the sunshine that lets all exist?


    Thank you very much.

    Gassho,
    Danny
    #sattoday

  8. #8
    _/\_
    Yugen, my dear brother, you have a way of telling it like it is; beautiful (and thank you )

    gassho
    合掌 仁道 生開 - gassho, Jindo Shokai "Open to life in a benevolent way"
    日々是好日 【nichi nichi korego nichi】Every Day is a Good Day!!

  9. #9
    Hello Yugen,


    Wow, you have truly captured lightning in a bottle here! This is such a wonderful and essential question to ask and answer. Thank you for sharing your thoughtful, insightful, inspiring exploration.

    Deep bows and gratitude,

    Gassho
    Lisa
    sat today

    p.s. much love to Zenshin Tim Buckley and the Sangha there!

  10. #10
    Moment by moment. Deep bows brother.

    Gassho,

    Jiken

  11. #11
    Thank you for the lesson.


    Gassho,
    Myosha sat today
    "Recognize suffering, remove suffering." - Shakyamuni Buddha when asked, "Uhm . . .what?"

  12. #12
    Mp
    Guest
    Yugen,

    Your words dance in my ears, thank you. =)

    Gassho
    Shingen

    Sat today

  13. #13
    Thank you for writing this Yugen. I share the other's sentiments above that if anything, this makes me feel like I am in the right place.
    Gassho
    C
    Sat Today!

  14. #14
    Treeleaf Unsui / Engineer Sekishi's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Virginia, USA
    Timely and lovely Yugen.

    I am currently slogging through the somewhat academic "Soto Zen in Medieval Japan," which spills a fair amount of ink over transmission, what was transmitted, and how did the sangha and temples sustain themselves. How amazing it is to be part of the Gudo Wafu / Nishijima lineage!

    However, even as the monastic walls thin and we bring our practice out into this "world of red dust" it is clear how important is your point of supporting each other! There are no powerful warrior lords to be our patrons and sustain the monastery walls - our brothers and sisters in practice are themselves providing the shelter!

    A lovely reminder as Jukai approaches.

    Deep bows,
    Sekishi
    #SatToday
    sekishi
    石志

    He/him. As a novice priest-in-training, this is simply an expression of my opinion. Please take it with a grain of salt.

  15. #15
    Treeleaf Unsui Shugen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Redding California USA
    Gassho,

    Shugen

    #sattoday


    Shugen
    Meido Shugen
    明道 修眼

  16. #16
    Dear Yugen,

    Thank you for this reminder and teaching. A lot to sit with, but at the same time, nothing to sit with.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    #SatToday
    Hondō Kyōnin
    奔道 協忍

  17. #17
    Yugen, thank you very much for explaining so clearly what this lineage means.
    And I'd like to seize the opportunity to thank you for your support and understanding during ango.

    These words gave me the chills:

    Quote Originally Posted by Yugen View Post
    Please consider this as you prepare for Jukai, and support one another in practice. Where are you going to take your practice? Where will you take our tradition? How are you going to care for it? How will you give it meaning? How are you going to live it?

    We are all responsible. Not just priests, but all of us. Where it goes is up to you.
    If I had to give an answer, I'd return a thousand questions.
    The main one would be:

    Will I be worth of this priceless and timeless gift?

    I'm not sure, but choose to trust our teacher, priests and fellow practitioners encouraging us to take the challenge.

    Gassho,
    Walter.

    #SatToday
    Gassho,Walter

  18. #18
    Yugen,

    Just beautiful and thought provoking.

    Gassho,
    Kathryn

    sat today

  19. #19
    Yugen
    Guest

    What is the essence that is transmitted?

    Quote Originally Posted by walter View Post
    Yugen, thank you very much for explaining so clearly what this lineage means.
    And I'd like to seize the opportunity to thank you for your support and understanding during ango.

    These words gave me the chills:



    If I had to give an answer, I'd return a thousand questions.
    The main one would be:

    Will I be worth of this priceless and timeless gift?

    I'm not sure, but choose to trust our teacher, priests and fellow practitioners encouraging us to take the challenge.

    Gassho,
    Walter.

    #SatToday
    Walter,
    It's very simple. You are, we all are this priceless and timeless gift. Every drop of water reflects the whole universe - as the wave is part of he ocean so we are part of the whole - when we are lost in thoughts of unworthiness, guilt, shame, anger we lose sight of the whole.

    You are worthy. Practice helps us be one with this. When we practice and support others a marvelous thing happens. The practice is no longer yours or mine. We become part of the stream of practitioners past, present and future. It is no longer a question of our worthiness, we are in the flow and we just "are!" .....!

    Deep bows
    Yugen


    #sat2day

  20. #20
    Beautiful thoughts, Yugen. Thank you so much for sharing. Especially apposite at Jukai.

    Where are you going to take your practice? Where will you take our tradition? How are you going to care for it? How will you give it meaning? How are you going to live it?
    So important to consider. Our lineage is not the now frozen words of Nishijima Roshi or even Jundo's teachings but a living thing that each of us is a droplet in.

    Deep bows to all of you taking Jukai at this time
    Kokuu
    #sattoday

  21. #21
    Yugen is right on target; assuming there is a target We are all worthy. However. if one tries to answer the questions it becomes imposssible. It can't be intellectualized. You need to live with the questions and the answers come in time. Meanwhile, attend to your practice with due diligence

    gassho,

    #sattoday
    Last edited by Shokai; 01-06-2015 at 11:39 PM.
    合掌 仁道 生開 - gassho, Jindo Shokai "Open to life in a benevolent way"
    日々是好日 【nichi nichi korego nichi】Every Day is a Good Day!!

  22. #22
    Mp
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Shokai View Post
    Yugen is right on target; assuming there is a target We are all worthy. However. if one tries to answer the questions it becomes imposssible. It can't be intellectualized. You need to live with the questions and the answers come in time. Meanwhile, attend to your practice with due diligence
    Wonderful!

    Gassho
    Shingen

    Sat today

  23. #23
    Yugen, Thank You. I now have a better understanding of our lineage.
    I found your teaching very inspirational and appreciate it very much.

    gassho
    Theophan
    Sat Today

  24. #24
    Yugen - thank you.



    Willow

    Sat today

  25. #25
    Wonderful. Thank you Yugen.

    Gassho
    Aske
    #SAT TODAY!
    ~ Please remember that I am very fallible.

    Gassho
    Meikyo

  26. #26
    Thank you Yugen. It never quite made sense to me. Zen is a Mahayana way, a great and open way, yet in all honesty it always looked like a small elite perpetuating itself . .. at least in this (north american) society. There are over 300 million people, and the number of people that go to bricks and mortar temples, sit regularly, have the traditional relationship with a teacher ... it amounts to what % of the population.... under 0.5.. maybe? Zen teachings presented in a straightforward always felt like the clearest way and made sense, but the samghas I practiced with always looked like a small, jealous, groups with a grand self view. There have been some wonderful people , but I could not escape that perception. Treeleaf has opened that right up. This sangha has none of the pretensions, while actually trying to live up to the term Mahayana.

    This is the place where I have learned what it means to fall down and get up, and fall down and get up... and each time I fall down and get up.. it is a miracle. This is where I have learned that I will always try to be a saint.. can't help it, it is the hearts aspiration.. but will always fall short, always be atoning, and always starting fresh again. That is the real miracle for me.. that always fresh again. Sorry to blab... and thank you.


    Gassho
    Daizan

    sat today

  27. #27
    Nindo
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Daizan View Post
    This is the place where I have learned what it means to fall down and get up, and fall down and get up... and each time I fall down and get up.. it is a miracle. This is where I have learned that I will always try to be a saint.. can't help it, it is the hearts aspiration.. but will always fall short, always be atoning, and always starting fresh again. That is the real miracle for me.. that always fresh again.

  28. #28
    Joyo
    Guest
    " The precepts are breadcrumbs that provide a trail back to ourselves"

    Hello Yugen, first of all, thank you for these wonderful words. I have been thinking about this quote of yours all week, just have not had the time to post here. I have thought of my own life, times when I have broken the precepts and yes, it is my practice that I turn to so that I find that trail back to myself. It is very easy to lose yourself, your focus, when breaking a precept.

    These words have helped my practice in the last week.

    Many bows,
    Joyo
    sat today

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