April 2007 Archives


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Today's SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO really rocks ...

There are those who, attracted
by grass, flowers, mountains and waters,
flow into the Buddha Way.
And there are those who, grasping
earth, rocks, sand and pebbles,
manifest the Buddha's seal.
Master Dogen in Bendo-wa



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When you are sad, just be sad;

When you are happy, just be happy.

Each is just the mind at work in a given moment. Things come and go, like the rising moon and the setting sun. By piercing this matter, one knows a peace and happiness beyond sadness or happiness ...

Great Master Ma was sick.

The temple superintendent asked him: Teacher, how is your
venerable health these days.

The Great Master said: Sun face buddha; moon face buddha.



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(The following was written and spoken by me in response to the many sad stories currently in the news. Please pardon me for being dour and formal ... as it all breaks my heart) .

Here are three ways to view tragedy in this world:

First, this world can appear ugly - and is ugly - so many times. War and violence, poverty, hunger, disease and painful death ... If I had the power, if I were king, there's so much I would change. Abused children, lonely elders, the fearful and forsaken would be abused, lonely, fearful and forsaken no more.

Of course, I do not have such power, I am not king. I can write a check, perhaps, or volunteer hours ... yet the problems remain. Many will never go away, appear the inevitable state of things, and it sometimes drives me toward frustration and despair. When viewed by human eyes, both nature and human society are so cruel.

But, second, we can abandon all human judgments:

For, when we drop all thought of "good" and "bad" , "right" , "wrong" , "just" and "unjust" , we experience a world that just is-what-it-is. It goes-the-way-it-goes, even if that way is not the way we personally might desire. Letting aside both "cruel" and "gentle" , "ugly" and "kind" , we no longer resist, do not judge, and embrace it all ... even the most terrible.

By such perspective, sometimes there is war in the world, sometimes there is peace. Sometimes there is health, sometimes disease. Same for all the rest. In Zen Buddhism, we may embrace the world as-it-is, with all its seeming imperfections. The world is just the world. We are free of disappointment at a world, at its people or a society failing to meet our ideals and expectations. In this stance, our minds are still, our hearts tranquil, our attitude soft and yielding. We merely observe it all, accept it all ... war, peace or whatever comes.

And dropping all divisions, we see this too: There is no separate person to be killed, no separate person to do the killing. There's nothing taken away and nothing to lose, as nothing is ever lacking. Without thought of birth and death, what birth and what death? It is like the water of a sea that is always wet, whole and complete, while waves go up and down. We can experience the world in that way too. More than a sad resignation to life (do not think that Zen practice is mere resignation), it is the subtle taste of no loss no gain.

Yet. should we simply stop there? In that self-satisfied tranquility, ignoring the daily pain of others, are we not left uncaring, blind, apathetic, cold-hearted?

Is there, perhaps, a third way to be?

For ours can be a path of acceptance sans acceptance - precisely blending both views. It is much the same in the case of a man or woman who, facing an illness, perhaps some cancer, accepts the condition fully - yet fights the good fight for a cure. We need not feel anger within at the natural state which is the disease, we can accept within that all life is impermanent and that death and sickness are just the reality ... but still we might search for the healing medicine, struggling without for health and life. We can know that within and without are not two.

War, fire, flood, death and disease, humanity and nature's most horrible turns can all be observed dispassionately and from an unshakable inner peace, fully accepted ... all while we choose to resist what we can, to extend comfort and compassion as we can, to make the world better when and where we can.


We have a very special episode of SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO, our daily Zazen show, netcast every day right here.

The subject is how to sit with kids or any other seeming 'distractions.'

Have a watch, a sit and a laugh too ...

Remember: We should sit Zazen with whatever comes.



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I am starting a new 'tradition' at Treeleaf ... sitting some days with a special formality honoring old tradition and line.

There is a time for t-shirts and a time for black Koromo.

This is important because, although we live in modern times, we are part of a continuing Zen lineage. As things change and as we change our ways of practice, other things should not change or be changed. There are traditions to keep, traditions to continue, new traditions to build upon. We need to figure out which is which as we go along. All that, amid all things constantly changing ...

Thus, we should honor and remember all that came before to bring us here.



Now and Then

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We break our world into pieces by the words we use. Two such words are “now” and “then”.

Of course, in our day-to-day lives, we need to live in changing time … past becomes present beomes future … we awake in the morning, go to bed at night … we are born, are children, grow up, grow old … work must be done on time, bills paid on time, our kids brought to school on time …

This is all necessary, and so long as we live – we must live in passing time. Even monks carry wristwatches in their robes, for the noon meal must be served at noon, the evening bell rung in the evening. Nothing is “wrong” with time, there is nothing about it to escape, and time will keep passing so long as we live. It is life, and living takes time.

But those monks may know another experience of time, for the dividing words “now” and “then” can be dropped from mind. Passing time is simply forgotten. We discover something that is not “then” and not “now”, yet is both of those. It is not “past/present/future”, but more “is/is/is”.Even “present” is empty absent a “past” or “future” in contrast. Instead, it is “what-is-that-was-that-shall-be”. Thus, we don’t “live in the present,” but “just live!” We can call it “just being.”

Putting aside all philosophizing about time, “timelessness” can be tasted in Zazen as another model of reality, an equally valid perspective on life. The parts of the brain that create a sense of time become quiet, and we realize that, “Oh, I can experience life in this way too!” Both time and timelessness are good ways to see things ... at the same time.

We can stop time too, and each moment may be viewed as perfectly just-what-it-is, whole in its instant: When you ring the evening bell, each strike of the bell is just that moment’s single strike. When you are late for school, you are perfectly late just at that moment. In such sense, each moment is completely each moment, with nothing in need of change. Time stands still while it flows.

And this can be experienced, not merely philosophized about.

Think of all the little complaints made meaningless by our dropping a sense of passing time: “life is too short”, “where has my life gone?”, “children grow up so fast” etc. etc. Part of us can stop rushing, for that part of us can never be late.

Master Dogen wished to convey that each moment of time and being is not anything apart from you, is your existential time-and-being. So, he wrote in Uji, Being-Time ...

Because real existence is only this exact moment, all moments of Being-Time are the whole of Time, and all existent things and all existent phenomena are moments of Time …

If Time does not take the form of leaving and coming, [a task done in the past] is the present as Being-Time, If Time does take the form of leaving and coming, you yet have this present moment of Being-Time, which is just Being-Time itself

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    SIT-A-LONG Zazen

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    Please join us for a moment of Zazen ...

    About 20 minutes in which nothing, and everything, happens ...