July 2009 Archives

Pu'uhonua o Honaunau

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I can't post a video today ... but I had the privilege of sitting a little Zazen this morning at Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, an old Hawaiian religious site and place of refuge, now a U.S. National Park ...

Puuhonua o Honaunau is one of Hawaii's most sacred historic places. The center piece of the park is the Hale O Keawe Heiau which once housed the bones of important chiefs. A heiau is a Hawaiian temple, usually dedicated to treating the sick, making offerings of first fruits or the first catch, offerings to start or stop rain, even offerings of human sacrifice. Often offerings were made seeking success in war.

All week I have had with me a recent translation of the Lotus Sutra by Gene Reeves, very well done. It contains this many words by the Buddha such as the following which, if we stretch them just a little, might just contain all religions in some way. Perhaps all religions, in the end, have that same kernel of Truth at heart ...

Knowing that living beings have various desires and things to which they are attached, I have taught the Dharma according to their basic natures, using a variety of causal explanations, parables, other kinds of expression, and the power of skillful means. Shariputra, this is so that they may obtain the complete wisdom of the One Buddha-Vehicle.

Okay, well, granted, the practice of human sacrifice and such may be a bit hard for the modern mind to wrap itself around. It certainly does not represent a Buddhist value, and I am very, very glad that it is not a part of Buddhism! I would rather have a religion that emphasizes respect for all life, and non-violence. So, that is certainly a form of practice I can do without! I can also do without using religions practices as a means to obtain success in war (although that still goes on in our modern world). I can do without that too.

But, even so, I sat today with the human religious heart ... which I think is common to most of us, though with many difference expressions and voices.  Each seeking in its own way to be at one and in peace with the world. 

Ocean Alone

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Then only the sea remains ... the sitter gone from view.


(remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells;
a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended)


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I am on the 'Big Island" of Hawaii. The ocean is found in all directions. Today, I swam around a little reef near shore, borrowing my son's mask and snorkel. Fish were everywhere, yellow, bright red, blue and black. Even a big green sea turtle. None seemed the least bothered by me, and I certainly was not disturbed by them.

I often feel that Zen practice lets humans recall and recover the naturality and balance, the "just going about one's business"-ness, that those little fish embody without thought ... but which we have largely forgotten.  Without concern for past or future ... they just swim where they swim. Master Dogen once wrote, in a poem called The Buddha's Essential Functioning ... 

"Clear water all the way through to the bottom. A fish swims like a fish." 

Certainly, they know how to avoid trouble, and move out of the way of perceived danger ... yet, immediately they return to their business. Do they worry constantly about all the perils out there, ever afraid... or do they simply swim on, past perils immediately dropped from mind, future perils left to the future ... going about their business now? Perhaps not even a thought of where the fish ends and ocean begins. Dogen wrote in the Genjo ...

Fish swim the water and however much they swim, there is no end to the water. Birds fly the skies, and however much they fly, there is no end to the skies. Yet fish never once leave the water, birds never forsake the sky. When their need is great, there is great activity. When their need is small, there is small activity. In this way, none ever fails to exert itself to the full, and nowhere does any fail to move and turn freely. If a bird leaves the sky, it will soon die. If a fish leaves the water, it at once perishes. We should grasp that water means life [for the fish], and the sky means life [for the bird]. It must be that the bird means life [for the sky], and the fish means life [for the water]; that life is the bird, life is the fish.

No separation of sea creatures and the sea ... Do you know that you too are the life of the world?

I am reminded of another line by a favorite Indian poet, Kabir ...

All know that the drop merges into the ocean,
                                          yet few know that ocean merges into the drop


(remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells;
a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended)

Zazen in a Cheap Motel

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Zazen today in the motel where we are staying ... 'cause my family and I are on vacation!

I mean Buddhists are allowed to have fun too ... and frolic on the beach sometimes. It's not all about 'suffering' you know (though even a beach can be 'suffering' if one is attached to being there ... or forgets the sunblock ... unless at one with a sunburn)

Anyway, being a Zen Teacher is a high stress job with no future or benefits (no past either, of course, nor demerits), and I really need to get away to relax sometimes ...  (yes, of course, there is 'no place to go' ... but if ya find a good air deal, why not head out of town?). Even the Buddha must have had a week off now and then from Buddha-ing

So, I'll post some family photos soon ... me on the beach in my Speedos® and waterproof Rakusu (just kidding about the Rakusu ... and the Speedos® too)

(remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells;
a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended)

Fear of Flying

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Some bouncy turbulence on our Pacific flight, and I sit a little pacific Zazen. Dogen and many teachers of centuries past crossed to China in wooden boats, on voyages taking days or weeks, meeting storms and constant dangers. I can only imagine their state, sitting Zazen in a leaky vessel as waves pounded the timbers. Now anyone can fly the same trip in hours, and in comfort. Statistics tell us how safe it all is.

Yet, part of me is cringing and terrified in the wind tossed plane, my fingers clenching the armrests.

Plane trips always are particularly good times for Zazen, in part due to an irrational fear of flying that I sit with. That fear, despite having made the Pacific crossing over 70 times ...

... I think that the initial grip of fear, as the plane is bounced around, is natural ... hard wired into the most primitive part of the brain. But from that point, years of flying experience have shown that there is some control ... a perfect moment for Zazen.

I have learned that, when the plan goes up, I just go up. No resistance. When it goes left and right, I go left and right ... no resistance. Despite the terror and lack of control. I just roll with the rolls. No resistance. My 'self' just as light and transparent as air.

Up down right left, I just go.

Oh, on some level deep within, the fear is still there, burning deep ... that is natural. But that fire loses much of its fuel when resistance is dropped.

Up down right left ... soon, no "I" apart from plane and air. 

(remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells;
a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended)

Eclipse of the Sun ... with my Son

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Sitting Zazen during a TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE SUN ...

Total eclipse envelops Asia in darkness

(CNN) Darkness fell across parts of China and India on Wednesday morning as a total solar eclipse passed across the world's most populous countries, bringing throngs of people outside to watch the phenomenon. Event is longest of 21st century ...

Actually, up here near Tokyo, the sky just went from gray to ... a little more gray ...

But that's okay!



(remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells;
a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended)

A Moment In The Park

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(remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells;
a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended)

How to Attain Enlightenment ...

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... by dropping all need and effort to attain enlightenment ...

... thus, enlightenment immediately attained!

It is often said that our Shikantaza way is about "not seeking", being "goalless", abandoning the need and search for "enlightenment" ...

It is also said that, in "just sitting," we best drop all desire to be peaceful ... happy ... and just allow the world "as it is" (which includes our often being anything but peaceful and happy) ...

But let me get on my soapbox and makes some things clear, set all straight:

Who ever said that there is "nothing to find" in, through and as this practice of "not seeking", no place to "get", no treasure to snare at the end of the rainbow?

Not me. I never would say such a silly thing. Then why pursue this path?

Who ever said there is no "enlightenment" to be achieved? I never would say that. It would not be Buddhism in that case.

What's more, this practice lets us be happy, joyful. Who said not? Not me.

Ya really got to pay attention to what is being said. You see:

Just because we are "not seeking" does not mean we are "not seeking" ... nor that there aren't wondrous marvels thus to find!


To the marrow sitting free of seeking ... is a dandy way thus to find that which can only be found by sitting radically free of seeking. Realizing that there is no where to "get to", and no place you can get or need get ... is finally getting somewhere that will revolutionize life, and put your "you" out of a job. One gets very far, one finally arrives ... by sitting still.

Being the "Buddha" all along, and having not a thing about you that is in need of change ... that does not mean you don't have some work to do to realize truly that you are the Buddha without need of change. To realize that you are never, from the outset, in need of change is a VERY BIG CHANGE! There is absolutely nothing about you and the universe (not two) to add or take away, and tasting that there is "nothing to add" is an irreplaceably important addition!

By being "goalless" we hit the goal ... a goal which is hit by being thoroughly goalless.

In seeing the ordinary as sacred ... we find (as Hakuin Zenji wrote) "this earth where we stand is the Pure Lotus Land, and this very body the body of Buddha". This very life is it!

Yes, the key is "not me" ... because that "me" is a trouble maker of frictions with the "not me" world. But depriving the "me" of its fuel, dropping body-mind, the friction vanishes. The way to "drop body-mind" is to drop all thought of achievement of "dropping body-mind" and all other need for achievement ... which results in a very major achievement, namely, the "dropping of body-mind."

And, yes, finally ... this practice makes me happy, joyful, deep down and pervading. It is an abiding happiness and joy at a life in which I do not need to, and will not, feel happy and joyful all or much of the time. And that makes me happy! It is a Peace which sweeps in all peace and war, is at home with all ... at peace in, as and with a life that is oftimes anything but peaceful, thus True Peace.

See how that all works?

For more details on this wacky, crazy, Koany, Zenny way of inside out, Alice through the looking glassness ... the BRILLIANCE of our path of "Non-attaining" ...


"Shikantaza" Zen practice is a radical, to the marrow, dropping of the self's demands that something needs to be attained to make this world "right", that something must be added or removed from our lives to make life complete, that something is defective and needs to be changed., that we need to get some place to find our "True Home".

HOWEVER, radically dropping, to the marrow all need to attain, add or remove, or change in order to make life right and complete --IS-- A WONDROUS ATTAINMENT, ADDITION and CHANGE TO LIFE! Dropping all need to "get somewhere" is truly finally GETTING SOMEWHERE! The True Home is here and everywhere! Abandoning all need in life's race to cross some finish line over a distant hill, is simply arriving at the finish line which is our every step!


All of that is dropped from mind ... with other related clutter and clatter like thoughts of this and that, self and other ... and, in doing so, the body-mind of self (being out of a job) drops away too!

Of course, this must NOT be understood merely intellectually, and instead actually made the living practice of our life ... thus, all that Zazen! Chasing that which cannot be chased, attaining that which need not and cannot be attained.

Now, someone has also rightly pointed out that Zen is not a solution to many of life's problems. Zazen is not a "self help tool". It will not let you avoid growing old, cure your cancer, repair your broken marriage, or even fix your flat tire. It will not add one thing to your life, nor make any improvement in it whatsoever.

And realizing that is instantly a solution to all your problems ... because they are not problems when you do not resist them as problems, and when all separation of "me" from "them" drops away.

... body-mind is dropped away when all resistance to life is dropped away ... putting the self on the shelf ...


Gassho, Jundo

PS - No video today ...


This passage may be a bit clearer if we think of the practice of Zazen as  ... not really a means to obtain enlightenment ... but a "dance of original enlightenment" ...

... a dance that both celebrates, and brings to life, the fact of enlightenment in our lives. We may be originally enlightened but, if the dance is not danced, enlightenment is never brought to life.

That dance is just enlightenment itself, and enlightenment is made real by dancing the dance.

Although our dance of Zazen may be for 20 or 30 minutes, finite in time, when seen as the "dance of enlightenment" it truly has no beginning or end ... for enlightenment is such without beginning and end.

If we see the Buddha and Ancestors, like us, as dancers of this dance, we can say that they danced the dance ... but we can also say that the dance embraces and uses the dancers.

Having been born to dance this dance, how fortunate are you and I to be here to dance it! We are originally enlightened! Wow!

And though there is nothing that is not the dance ... that does not mean we should be lax in our dancing! If we just take "enlightenment" for granted, and do not train or practice our dance ... the dancing will not go well, and enlightenment will be forgotten.

Now get out there, and start spinning and twirling ... just dance this dance. Even forget that one is dancing, naturally lose oneself in the dance ... and taste that enlightenment envelopes us. Then forget about "enlightenment", and all is just the dancing. 


Question Seven (Cont.):

... Because practice is just [enlightenment], the [enlightenment] is endless; and because [enlightenment] is practice, the practice has no beginning. This is how both the Tathagata Shakyamuni and the Venerable Patriarch Mahakasyapa were received and used by the practice that exists in the state of [enlightenment]. The Great Master Bodhidharma and the founding Patriarch Daikan were similarly pulled and driven by the practice that exists in the state of [enlightenment]. The examples of all those who dwelled in and maintained the Buddha-Dharma are like this. The practice that is never separate from [enlightenment] exists already: having fortunately received the one-to-one transmission of a share of the subtle practice, we who are beginners in pursuing the truth directly possess, in the state without intention, a share of original [enlightenment]. Remember, in order to prevent us from tainting the [enlightenment] that is never separate from practice, the Buddhist patriarchs have repeatedly taught us not to be lax in practice. When we forget the subtle practice, original [enlightenment] has filled our hands; when the body leaves original [enlightenment] behind, the subtle practice is operating throughout the body.

From: Bendowa - A Talk about Pursuing the Truth  - Nishijima-Cross [with some amendments according to Uchiyama]

(remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells;
a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended)

Right Here All Along

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In other words ...

Someone asks Dogen ... "Hey Dogen, if Zazen is a way for unenlightened folks to get enlightened ... is there any reason for enlightened folks to continue Zazen after they get enlightened?"

Dogen responds, "You still don't get it, silly boy? Let me say it again ... Zazen is enlightenment itself, Zazen is enlightenment realized here and now. Even a beginner's Zazen is original enlightenment made manifest. We are not waiting for enlightenment, we are instead "doing enlightenment" right here. Where one goes, the other is ... without a gap.

Got it now? Got that you always had it?


Question Seven ...

As for the practice of Zazen, people who have not yet realized buddha-dharma should attain enlightenment through practicing the way of Zazen. But what could those who have already clarified the true buddha-dharma expect from doing zazen?"



Although it is said that one should not relate dreams to fools and it is useless to give oars to mountain folks, I give you further instruction. Thinking that practice and enlightenment are not one is no more than a view that is outside the Way [that is deluded]. In buddha-dharma, practice and enlightenment are one and the same. Because it is the practice of enlightenment, a beginner's wholehearted practice of the Way is exactly the totality of original enlightenment. For this reason, in conveying the essential attitude for practice, it is taught not to wait for enlightenment outside practice. This might be so because [this practice] is the directly indicated original enlightenment. Since it is already the enlightenment of practice, enlightenment is endless; since it is the practice of enlightenment, practice is beginningless. Therefor both Shakyamuni Tathagata and the Venerable Mahakasyapa were accepted and used in the practice of enlightenment, and in the same manner Great Teacher Bodhidharma and Great Ancestor Daikan [the Sixth Ancestor] were pulled and turned in the practice of enlightenment. Traces of dwelling in and maintaining buddha-dharma are all like this. ...

From: Talk on the Wholehearted Practice of the Way - Kosho Uchiyama (with Shohaku Okumura, Taigen Daniel Leighton)

(remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells;
a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended)

Oh baby you know what I'm talking about
Rollercoaster of Love
oh yeah it's Rollercoaster time


(remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells;
a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended)

Zazen & the Colonoscopy

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Our series on "Zazen in the Hospital" continues with today's adventure in my "soon turning 50" routine medical check up ... the dreaded:


(A little more dreaded here in Japan, where no anesthesia is used and the patient is wide awake the whole time. Talk about an "Inner Enlightenment"!)

A little known fact is that the Buddha himself had a "personal physician" (Dr. Jivaka), and the odd middle-aged tummy troubles . ..

The turning point in Jivaka's life came when Ananda came to fetch him to treat the Buddha who suffered from "blocked intestines" (constipation?).When Jivaka saw the condition of the patient, it occurred to him he might not survive a strong purgative. He then had fat rubbed into the Buddha's body and gave him a handful of lotuses to inhale the essence emanating from the flowers. Jīvaka was away when the mild purgative was later administered to the patient, and he suddenly remembered that he had omitted to ask him to bathe in warm water to complete the cure process. The Buddha, it is said, read his thoughts and bathed as required.( Vin.i.279f; DhA. ii.164f).

(Later Buddhists often tried to discount the fact that the Buddha sometimes got sick in the old stories, by saying that he only was pretending as a way to teach or convert others to the Dharma; and it was in fact impossible for him to experience pain. But I don't know about that ... I rather like the image of a very human "Buddha" who would sometimes moan and groan with a bad stomach or backache.)

Anyway, all is impermanent, and that most certainly includes you and me. But that's okay, when we allow it to be okay. Life is not "suffering" because we grow old, get sick and die. Life is only "suffering" when we grow old, yet cling to being forever young ... get sick, but refuse that fact ... death, because we cling to life. Our Zen practice is, at heart, about letting go ... going with the flow ... flowing as the flow .... only flowing ... not even that ...

But, still, I found today's procedure sometimes a bit painful at moments (just a little ... don't put off getting one), and a tad scary too when thoughts of "the worst" would briefly come into mind ... But that is just human ...

Hand in hand with that,  Zazen practice made today a whole and peaceful place to be too  ...

(remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells;
a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended)

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Ten Pure Virtues or "Perfections" are fundamental to the Bodhisattva path.

Now we come to Wisdom (Prajna Paramita)

In Mahayana Buddhism, this means seeing into, piercing  ... emptiness ... 

being, allowing, witnessing and losing ourselves in ... the dance of emptiness ...

(remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells;
a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended)

Zazen in the ER (for our son)

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Spent the evening in the emergency room for our son ... sudden 40C/104F fever ...

He's ok now it seems ... but, man, it was a rough night ...

Pardon if the talk is a little sleepy tonight ... my wife and I are bushed!

(remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells;
a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended)

Please join our JULY MONTHLY 4-hour 'Live from Treeleaf' ZAZENKAI, recorded in "real time" and available at the following links:

The recording is divided into 2 parts as follows (click on the blue link) :

00:50 - 01:00 KINHIN
01:00 - 01:40 ZAZEN
01:40 - 01:50 KINHIN


01:50 - 02:30 DHARMA TALK & ZAZEN
02:30 - 02:40 KINHIN
02:40 - 03:20 ZAZEN
03:20 - 03:30 KINHIN

Remember, when we drop all thought of 'here' 'there' 'now' and 'then' ... we are sitting all together!

Our Zazenkai consists of our chanting the 'Heart Sutra' and the 'Identity of Relative and Absolute (Sandokai)' in English (please download our Chant Book at the link below), some full floor prostrations (please follow along with me ... or a simple Gassho can be substituted if you wish), a little talk by me ... and we close with the 'Metta Chant', followed at the end with the 'Verse of Atonement' and 'The Four Vows'.

Please download and print out the Chant Book (PDF) at the following link:



Please join in, one and all.

Gassho, Jundo

As Buddhas Do, So Should You

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Though every action may be said to be "Zazen" in its limitless meaning ... whether walking, standing, running, sitting or reclining ...

... there's something special about Zazen seated in the cross-legged position.

One reason is that it can be a position of ease and balance ...

... but also, since it is what all the Buddhas do ... so should me and you.


Question Six:

Q. [Someone asks], Among the four different postures (walking, standing, sitting, lying down), why does Buddhism encourage entering realization through meditation only in sitting?


A. It is not possible to thoroughly comprehend the path by which the buddhas from the past, one after another, have been practicing and entering realization. If you seek a reason, you must know that it is only because [sitting] is what has been used by Buddhist practitioners, and beyond this you do not need to search. However, the Ancestor [Nagarjuna] praises it, saying "Zazen is the dharma gate of ease and delight (nirvana)." So, couldn't we infer that it is because [sitting] is the most stable and peaceful of the four postures? Moreover, this is not the path of practice of one or two buddhas, but all buddhas and ancestors follow this path.

From: Talk on the Wholehearted Practice of the Way - Kosho Uchiyama (with Shohaku Okumura, Taigen Daniel Leighton)

(remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells;
a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended)

The Freedom of Doing Without

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I would like to recommend another small daily practice that can fit into any life ...

... voluntarily, each day, doing without something desired.

(remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells;
a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended)