June 2010 Archives

Sit-a-Long with Taigu: Three Yanas

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Three yanas, three vehicles, three ways to sweep the mind.

The Buddhist path can be viewed in a threefold way, three distinct and yet interrelated yanas, or "vehicles": Theravada, Mahayana, and Tantrayana (or Vajrayana). Three styles of living and dancing with pain. The first one, masculine in essence, is a path of discipline, control. The mind is tamed and the wound is healed through diligent and careful practice. The second one, Mahayana, is a path of compassion, pain is loved, taken care of, and the face of Jizo and Kannon manifests itself in the process of dealing with one's suffering or other people suffering. It is a more feminine, nurturing and open way. The third way is to be one with pain, to get intimate so one can communicate with its naked core, a boundless field of energy one can dance with. Beyond the veil of emotions, we may find a raw and rich quality.

Sweeping the mind is not getting rid of anything, but just letting go of the belief that this pain is solid and everlasting.

[Click through to hear today's talk, and to "sit-a-long" with today's video.]

Today's Sit-A-Long video follows. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

I have never been much for exaggerated, overly imaginative, hyped up, hyperbolized, "I've never actually experienced that in person, but that won't stop me from describing in flowery language what I think it is like" images of buddhas, buddha lands, dead ancient zen masters, nirvana, kensho, satori and the like. That's because the reality is much more wondrous than the fantasy.

I meet so many folks, mostly new to this practice and going by faith on something they read in somebody's old book, who are foolishly looking for "enlightenment" as if there are Hollywood Special Effects to accompany realization, designed by George Lucas at his animation studios. Or, they imagine that all life problems will vanish... no more flat tires on life's highway, no more cancer and no more wars. Some think that, when they realize the payoff of this practice, they will forever and ever be found in a perpetual state of peaceful, blissed-0ut la-la land, the ultimate opium trip, and they need never come down.

[Click through for more, and to "sit-a-long" with today's video.]

Such misunderstandings are not helped by the fact that many overly imaginative Buddhist authors have painted things that way over the centuries. The literature is filled with images of "nirvana" written by people who, I believe, probably were not themselves permanently in such a state, but who may have had a taste of bliss sometimes (like all of us have sometimes in this practice sometimes)... and who themselves were not Buddhas (any more than we are all buddhas)... but who nonetheless did have an excellent command of rich and extreme adjectives employed to describe their fantasy "Blissful Buddha Golden Heaven" as they imagined it should be.

Oh, don't get me wrong. There are some times and experiences in this practice to knock one's socks off, and one's whole self too.  It's just that that's not where the true gift of this practice is at.

Times of joy and bliss and "wow" do happen. Yet in our Soto way, we neither run toward those nor run away. Don't get stuck in the cheap bliss, because then the real treasure is missed. We tend to look upon running after permanent states of bliss and "wow" as a drug, a phantasm, a dead end. Even should an abiding state of bliss be possible (I tend to think one should best seek that from the heroin pusher on the corner more than any guru), it is a removal from the wholeness and beauty of this present life. I might suggest instead that one look more for "enlightenment" in the direction of vibrant (as opposed to cold and numb) equanimity... wholeness... complete at-home-ness... such "wholeness" that nothing's lacking, nothing's to add... that all the pieces of this life-self-world are in harmony (even amid a world of disharmony)... such that, sometimes, even the sense of separate "pieces" to become "whole" may fully disappear. Only Home remains.

What one imagines is in the brightly wrapped birthday present box -- under all the colored paper and bows -- and what the present in the box actually is are not necessarily the same at all. The actual present may be much more precious and lovely. So it is with this practice.

Truly, I would say that the "gift" is to be so totally at home and whole with/as/living this life -- even with all its ups and downs -- so whole and undivided, that even "up and down" are seen right through; all resistance and separation and barriers dropped away. If one is searching for "magic" that looks like a cheap stage show "magic", or if one is only seeing the ordinary as merely "ordinary," one is missing the absolute fact that this ordinary world is anything but ordinary!

THAT is the real miracle and magic! A close reading of one of the most worthwhile classic texts in our tradition, for example, the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, paints no picture of someone "blissed out" or running around like a crazy man yelling "Eureka!" Instead, one finds a description of someone now totally at home in this reality -- within/through/just as this complicated reality. One transcends the characteristics of this world even living amid the world.

The message is surprisingly simple: If one can encounter the flat tires, beauty and ugliness, cancer and wars of this life, but with a mind nonabiding, clear, transcending characteristics, all is seen and experienced as before, yet is seen and experienced not as before.

That is the true gift of Enlightenment, the true Buddha.

Today's Sit-A-Long video follows. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

Sit-a-Long with Jundo: Brush, Brush, Brush

The subject came up in our Treeleaf Sangha Forum of tooth-brushing... the Zen Way. As with many daily activities, the simple and ordinary habit of brushing the teeth is just Zen Practice in life. (Think of it as Zazen... with fluoride).

In fact, Master Dogen left richly detailed instructions for dental hygiene right in his most famous work, Shobogenzo.

[Click through for more, and to "sit-a-long" with today's video.]

Dogen said to treat tooth brushing as a sacred act. (But, then again, what isn't sacred?) Picking up the brush, we should recite a portion of a Sutra: Taking the brush in hand, may all living beings maintain the right Dharma in mind, and be naturally pure and clean... with conquering teeth, to chew up troubles.

Dr. Dogen, DDS, then offers several pages of "trancen-dental" stories, such as:

[...] to meet the [toothbrush] is to meet the Buddhist Ancestors... The buddhas and ancestors of the past, present and future, without exception... have received and retained the [toothbrush] in the past, present and future.

But, as in all our bodily attentions,

We should not see ourselves as pure and clean only after we have brought water and washed... We practice washing... even though we are already wholly pure and clean."(Senmen)

In other words, we should brush brush brush our dirty teeth... dropping all thought of "clean" vs. "dirty." Dirty teeth are perfectly just what they are too, pure in their dirtiness... yet, brush brush brush we must! Life is neither pure nor impure, beautiful or ugly... even the truly impure and ugly parts. And realizing that truth, and seeing beyond mind created opposites, is Pure and Beautiful! Thus, brushing the teeth helps make us pure... yet all is already, from the outset, Purity itself.

There is a life lesson here on how we should move forward in life, doing the work that needs to be done, fixing what needs to be fixed... all while simultaneously realizing that there is nothing whatsoever to achieve, nothing that needs to be changed or fixed. We are never "flawed"... not a thing in this universe is lacking or must be added to this universe -- nothing is missing from Buddha's smile -- and, that being said, we can and should do so much to fix our very real flaws.

Today's Sit-A-Long video follows. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

Sit-a-Long with Taigu: Sweeping

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You don't have to believe your thoughts.

We sometimes find ourselves in pretty dark corners, with lots of thoughts whirling around: sad thoughts, depressed thoughts, dark fictions. We may play these homemade movies or choose not to pick them up, leaving them on the mental shelf. In fact, we have a lot of sweeping to do everyday, not just house cleaning. We also have to pay attention to the mind and sweep these thoughts, seeing in them what they actually are: a simple and natural activity of the mind.

[Click through for more, and to "sit-a-long" with today's video.]

If we believe in them, they might appear so real that they will generate strong and disturbing emotional responses. So the trick is to practice sweeping. And the thoughts will come back, just like dust will settle again after a while. You can't give up the sweeping. Even if you are familiar with your original face, even if you are often caught by the still state and enjoy this boundless open space, thoughts do come back. But beware! Sweeping doesn't have to be done in a very serious, over focused and rigid way, it is rather with a light touch, like fanning. Just saying inwardly something like: it doesn't matter, it is not real, no big deal! And come back to the task at hand.

Today's Sit-A-Long video follows. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended

Sit-a-Long with Jundo: So Ordinary

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In my view, Buddhism is very ordinary. In fact, the Buddha was just an ordinary man, and his Teachings are most ordinary. Bodhisattvas are ordinary, Zazen is ordinary, Enlightenment is nothing special; simply ordinary.

Needless to say, this whole universe and all of life are totally ordinary, you and I are ordinary... every mountain, stone, tree and star ordinary as ordinary can be... all is ordinary.

However, "ordinary" is never merely ordinary.

[Click through to hear a very ordinary talk, and to "sit-a-long" with today's video.]

Today's Sit-A-Long video follows. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

Here's some news for you that you may find startling, so you'd best brace yourself:

You see, your sense of your "you" is just your illusion. There is no "you" there, never was or will be.

[Click through if "you" want to hear more and "sit-a-long" with today's video.] 

Or, at least, there is no "you" that's the separate, ongoing "you" you think you are... a "you" that you constantly contrast to the rest of this life and world you think of as "not you." In fact, your "you" is just your mind's cutting up and dividing the world into "you" and "you not ... a "you" and a "not you" that you can stop dividing in two.

And, in Buddhism, the fact that there is no "you" -- and no "not you" separate from "you" for that matter -  is a very nice thing. That's because your "you" is always causing you a lot of dissatisfaction and trouble. This "you" is always bumping and crashing into, running toward or running away from, judging and feeling separate from, all the rest of the world that your "you" thinks is a separate "not you."

In Zazen, you can just stop that dividing and cutting up, running toward and running away from, judging and feeling separate that you feel.

Thus, drop all that division of "you" and "not you."  Drop the judgments, attachments, aversions and friction, and your "you" can't mess you up!. NO SELF, NO PROBLEM! ('Cause you need a "self" bumping into a "not-self" in order to have a problem.)

However, before you quit paying your taxes or quit your job because there's no "you" and never was,  remember: that is only one way for you to look at "you." That's because, of course, there most certainly -- IS -- a "you." And that "you" is perfectly you.  So, just because there is no "you"... don't think that there is no "you". You can bet your bottom dollar that there is a "you" too ... even though there isn't!

Are "you" confused now?

As you will soon hear, there's no need for you to be!

Other recent "Buddha-Basics" sit-a-longs looked at Dukkha (suffering, dissatisfaction) andAnicca (impermanence). Today, the topic is the third of the so-called Buddhist "Three Marks of Existence- Anatta, or "no self."

Today's Sit-A-Long video follows. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

To view all of Jundo and Taigu's SunSpace posts, click here.

First and foremost, let's remember that to make a Buddha, we sit upon the cushion or something like it, making the mind seal real and visible, beyond good or bad, high or low, this life or the next. This is our way to manifest a living Buddha. We sit. And out of this, we may see every situation of our life as a Buddha: each moment, sentient beings (and in this, everything is seen as sentient) come and knock at our door: rain or sun, blue sky or clouds, people, work, streets or lanes, noise or silence, carved in countless forms the Buddha's body manifests itself. We meet people and things without being attached, releasing every moment into the next and not looking back. So living Buddhas don't look like what we would imagine them to be like, they are dressed up in the ordinary.

They are the ordinary itself. 

Today's Sit-A-Long video follows. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

Some folks might consider an image of Buddha on a pair of shoes to be sacrilegious. I can understand such sentiments.

Yet I think Buddhism is all about the shoes!

[Click through to hear a sole-ful talk, and to "sit-a-long" with today's video.]

Today's Sit-A-Long video follows. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

I am often asked how Shikantaza Zazen is different from most other ways of meditation -and other styles of Zazen too...

If one is sitting Zazen with the intent - in any way - to discover some Truth, "get enlightened," experience something special, change one's current life, attain some exotic state of mind or special wisdom, be happier or more peaceful, pierce some mystery or conundrum, solve some problem in life, understand "life and death" or the "meaning of time", taste "oneness", or accomplish some goal or purpose -in any manner, even but one of the foregoing - then that is not true Shikantaza by definition.

I think that one or more of the foregoing applies to most every style of meditation in some way. I think most styles of meditation pay at least lip service to dropping such goals and hopes... but I think that most folks actually continue to hold such accomplishments as the "pay-off" of Zazen in some manner.

In the sitting of Shikantaza, one radically drops (and is dropped from) all thought of discovery -"special" or not "special," attainment, wish for change, opposites of happy/sad peaceful/disturbed, all desire to pierce a mystery, worry of "problems" to resolve, concepts of "life" and "death" or "time", idea of "oneness"... all purpose to accomplish some goal. All of that is dropped... even the thought of a "someone" to do the achieving of some goal, too. All fully discarded, not needed in any way.

Of course, there is a lovely twist,  a madness to the method. :wink: [Click through to read more and to "sit-a-long" with today's video.]

For in true Shikantaza, living without need to discover some Truth is -- precisely - Truth discovered. The forsaking of all desire for "something special" or to change one's life in some way  is- profoundly -- special, working a radical change in life. Giving up all hopes of attaining exotic states of mind or special wisdom manifests clear and illuminating states of mind that are ever flowing with life's changing kaleidoscope... and thus a panoply of the Buddha's Wisdom in many shapes and colors.

By forsaking all need for peace and happiness in one's day-to-day, one finds the happiness of one's day to day just-as-it-is, at home where one stands -- standing everyplace and no place in particular (a "happiness" that does not even require one to feel "happy" all the time! )... and a peace that washes away and holds all reactions to peace or disturbance. (Thus forsaking even the demand on life that it cause us to feel "peaceful." Now, THAT's peaceful!)

Great mysteries are resolved when dropped from mind (like asking about "How many angels on the head of a pin"), problems are not "problems" when we simply stop thinking of them as such. (Even when the "problems" still remain! And that's very important: Zen practice won't cure your cancer, return lost loved ones or even fix a flat tire... but it may change how we react to such things.) Life and death are not "life" and "death" when the human mind stops cutting "life" from "death." (Same for "past" and "future" -- thus deconstructing "time").

Many people run around (and around internet forums!) claiming "enlightenment" because they have tasted, or can access, some feeling of "oneness." The seeker may have even seen for a time visions of "oneness beyond oneness beyond time or place" without even a separate see'r to do the seeing. They may know that that this world of samsara is like a dream. Such folks then proclaim themselves enlightened though they are "playing in the entranceway, still short of the vital path of emancipation." Such persons mistake "oneness" or "oneness beyond beyond" for truly being "at one" with this life of chaos, division, beauty and ugliness, peace and war. The error is that they want this world of samsara to feel like enlightenment -- or want to constantly see the multiplicity through the eyes of "oneness" or "oneness beyond oneness" -- but do not know the non-enlightenment of just allowing samsara to be samsara.

For by allowing samsara to be samsara, all conflicts are resolved, all thoughts and divisions of "how things must be" vanish. Instantly, samsara is not merely samsara... for the chaos, divisions, and weighing of beauty and ugliness vanish too. What presents is a peace which is of "one piece" whether there is peace or war. The infinite complexity of life is one with the infinite complexity of life. Greed, anger, and ignorance dissipate as all tension, division, and need for reward drop away. Merely by letting the world be the world, a better world results.

In that way, the "self" is put out of a job. It loses its functions, is rendered mute. For the normal work of the "self" is desiring, complaining, contrasting and dividing, wishing, regretting, remembering, anticipating, fearing et cetera, et cetera... Simply remove from mind-body all thoughts of desire (via faith in completeness), all complaint at "how things are," contrasts and divisions, wishes, regrets, thoughts of past and future, fear ... and the "self" loses its fire and goes out. POOF!

Then, rising from where we are endlessly sitting, we can return to a world of desires, incompleteness, contrast and divisions, wishes, regrets, past and future, sometime fears. Yet, something is different about difference... we taste the completeness of incompleteness, divisions undivided, wishes without fundamental care of attainment or not attainment... resisted pain that is not "suffering" because we human beings embrace and allow human resistance to the painful state.

One is not "one" with the universe or "enlightened" ... but "at one" with this crazy universe, just-as-it-is. Up down up down ... YIPPEE!

The roller coaster is just us! Then, even thought of "the ride" and "someone riding" is just a convenience.

True Shikantaza... Enlightenment itself.

Today's Sit-A-Long video follows. NOTE: THERE IS NO TALKING DURING TODAY'S SITTING, JUST SITTING. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

That brightness beyond all brightness cannot be owned. As you display the moonlight, you cannot see it. Its activity cannot be soiled or limited by your games: dividing, separating, breaking, the dual is left behind. Dogen uses a metaphor and at the same time, it is not a metaphor. Quite clearly, the dewdrop is a dewdrop-you-moon-light-reflection-time-universe. All these words not forming a necklace of pearls, but a single pearl-like word-world. (Click through for more, including today's talk and "sit-a-long" video.) 

Dogen writes in the Genjokoan:

Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water. The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken. Although its light is wide and great, the moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide. The whole moon and the entire sky are reflected in dewdrops on the grass, or even in one drop of water. Enlightenment does not divide you, just as the moon does not break the water. You cannot hinder enlightenment, just as a drop of water does not hinder the moon in the sky. The depth of the drop is the height of the moon. Each reflection, however long of short its duration, manifests the vastness of the dewdrop, and realizes the limitlessness of the moonlight in the sky.

Today's Sit-A-Long video follows. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

Taigu and I are pleased to announce that three individuals (from Canada, Germany and Sweden) will be receiving Shukke Tokudo (Home-Leaving) Ordination within our Treeleaf Sangha late this summer. That means that they will each begin training to be Soto Zen priests, traditionally marked by a ceremony of head shaving, and receiving Buddhist robes and bowls.

As with so much of our Practice at Treeleaf -- transcending distance, separation and borders -- we will be breaking some very new ground. The ceremony itself, and a large portion of the training to follow, will combine traditional methods with great innovations. [Click through to read more and to "sit-a-long" with today's video.]

The ceremony itself will be held with the participants in four separate countries, and our Sangha members observing the ceremony from perhaps twenty countries, often separated by thousands of miles, all linked by modern telecommunications. Training too will combine old ways and some very new ways transcending barriers. We expect the training period will require several years, and there is no promise or expectation of the outcome. The "goalless goal" is the creation of priests who have profoundly penetrated into the way of Zazen, who are ethical, who can serve the community and people who come to them for guidance, and who embody the ways of their Lineage. No corners can be cut, and nothing should be rushed, for we would risk giving birth to clergy and teachers who are ill equipped, ill informed and ill prepared for their roles.

Traditionally, in India, China, Japan and the other Buddhist countries of Asia, one was expected to leave one's home and family behind in order to begin the necessary training and practice of an "apprentice monk." Now, in Japan and the West, most Zen priests are married with families. This, in keeping with changes in cultures and society, has done much to bring Buddhism out from behind monastery walls. Thus, the term "leaving home" has come to have a wider meaning, of "leaving behind" greed, anger, ignorance, the harmful emotions and attachments that fuel so much of this world, in order to find the "True Home" we all share. In such a way, we find the Home that can never be left, take to the Way that cannot be taken.

Today's Sit-A-Long video follows. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

We now come full circle, for the "last" branch of the Eightfold Path is"Right Meditation." ... Zazen

But is it the "last branch" or the the first branch, the core, all branches? For this Path has no beginning, no end... each branch supporting, supported by, and realizing the others.

[Click through to hear more and to "sit-a-long" with today's video.] 

Today's Sit-A-Long video follows. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

To view all of Jundo and Taigu's SunSpace posts click here.