September 2011 Archives

SIT-A-LONG with Taigu: wonder

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Daily life is filled with many storms. They blow around us great and small, and the circumstances of life can sometimes knock us right off our feet! They blow within us, as the mind reactively rages and storms with emotions and thoughts about those circumstances ... fears, "what if's", anger, clutching, resistance, all manner of mental lightning and thunder. 

Today's passage of the Xin Xin MIng counsels us not to become mentally entangled in the outside storms. Be serene, allow, 'let go', do not judge ... experience the wholeness of life, both clear and sunny times and storming days. However, neither seek to remain trapped in the calm, quiet, still, boundless "eye" at the center of the storm which Zazen reveals. Rather, know BOTH AT ONCE, AS ONE ... the calm that is the storm, the stillness at the heart of each and every chaotic gust, a subtle serenity and 'allowing' even when terrible and deadly winds rage within and without. Find the wholeness of 'Eye' and 'Storm'. Neither seek to be totally unmoving, stiil, frozen or passive, nor let life and the mind blow one around wildly here and there. Rather, live stillness in action.

Live neither in the entanglements of outer things,
nor in inner feelings of emptiness.
Be serene in the oneness of things
and such erroneous views will disappear by themselves.
When you try to stop activity to achieve passivity
your very effort fills you with activity.
As long as you remain in one extreme or the other
you will never know Oneness. 

Sometimes I remember when we used the live in Florida, and some literal hurricanes came our way. One would try to take action while remaining calm and collected ... neither panicked nor passive, gathering water and supplies, battening down the windows. A time for action, yet hand-in-hand with inner stillness and balance, pre-storm Samu work practice! On the other hand, should we try to artificially "stay calm", try forcibly to hold down the mind, the thoughts-emotions might start running even more like a freight train! Instead, I remember spending a couple of nights huddled in a dark closet with my family, the walls shaking and windows breaking. Moments of fear might come and go, and thoughts of "what if the roof comes off!" ... the mind's storm reacting to the storm outside. However, one could also know calm and "allowing" amid the terrible noise and commotion, not entangled by the circumstance, calm even as the storm did its worst. I would sit Zazen there, and at some point just let the storm do what it would ... 

... as if throwing out one's arms, merging into the sound, letting the wind carry one where it will. 

Today's Sit-A-Long video follows at this link. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 15 to 35 minutes is recommended

Image I would like to offer an important reminder and CAUTION to ALL THOSE UNDERTAKING ANGO, RAKUSU SEWING FOR JUKAI and such at Treeleaf ...

... both those who say "it is all going well" ... and those who say "it is not going well" ...

... those who say that "all has been smooth as silk" ... and those who have encountered bumps and places to trip ...

... those who say they have met every goal they set for themselves ... and those who have not.

Do not forget about "Goalless Goals", about having no place to fall even when we trip and fall! There is no place not the "place for Ango" when lived as such! 


Today's Sit-A-Long video follows at this link. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 15 to 35 minutes is recommended.

Image The town next to ours here in Ibaraki, Japan, is known for two attractions: Its Giant Buddha Statue, over 100 meters tall (never too big!)... and the new "Outlet Mall" looking like it could be transplanted right from Southern California, each clearly seen from the other. 

What better place than the mall to look at today's passage from the Xin Xin Ming?

The Way is perfect like vast space
where nothing is lacking and nothing is in excess.
Indeed, it is due to our choosing to accept or reject
that we do not see the true nature of things.

Nevertheless, we run to the mall, credit cards in hand, to fill temporarily the "lacking" and boredom we feel. Here are the perfect cards to bring! 


The advertisements on TV show us that there can be "no excess", that one can never have a big enough house or new enough car, never enough money in the bank. But that is not quite what the Buddha had in mind by "nothing is in excess". Rather, nothing is ever lacking ... nothing is ever in excess ... so live with moderation, simplicity. Sure, there is no need for lay folks to live like monks ... but know what one truly needs for life, appreciate the simple and small, do not be a slave to wants and material things. 

In fact, in the Buddha's Mall, nothing is ever lacking or overstocked, there's is always an open parking space ... and the best stuff is totally free

Today's Sit-A-Long video follows at this link. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 15 to 35 minutes is recommended.


SIT-A-LONG with Taigu: No views, please

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Koun Ejo's text is here: ... 0Light.pdf

gassho to all



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Today's talk was offered during our September ZAZENKAI to mark the start of our annual JUKAI (Undertaking the Precepts) season of Rakusu sewing, Zazen sitting and Precepts study, as well as the continuation of our ongoing ANGO (90-Day Special Practice Period) at Treeleaf Sangha

If I were pressed to describe the heart of all our Practices in one word ... Zazen, living by Precepts, all we do from sewing a Rakusu to bowing to chanting a Meal Gatha ... that one word is WHOLENESS.

This way allows us to realize ... and to make real in this life ... that Wholeness that is all things, that is you and me too. It is a Wholeness that sweeps in even the seeming broken pieces, both the happy and sad, the ups and downs, the beautiful and ugly. Somehow, this Way allows us to experience the Wholeness that is each and all, all along ... and to avoid perspectives and behavior that cause us to see and make this world, our lives, as broken into shattered pieces. It is a Wholeness often hidden in the divisions and frictions of the ugly mind, yet never truly hidden to a Buddha's Eye. 

................ WHOLENESS


Watch live video from treeleafzen on

ADDENDUM: Someone wrote me to ask why I did not offer a talk for 9-11, when so many others seem to have done so ... Instead, I offered a little talk on Wholeness ...

I had to chuckle. I believe this talk is about broken pieces of buildings, the people who wish to smash and break, broken hearts, all the broken pieces of life. It is about 9-11 and everything else ... and healing in Wholeness. 
Image Last year I spoke about the little girl that my wife and I have been trying to adopt from China for five years to no avail, caught in red tape and creeping bureaucracy. She is just a name to us, a shadow, an empty child's room that has gathered dust. Our little son always asks for his absent sister, year after year. Now, after much pushing through obstacles, wrangling with regulations, negotiating, simple waiting (there are so many families in like position, and we did not want to push ahead of others, so waited our turn like everyone else), procedures and endless forms, adoption and immigration lawyers and legal fees to fix the tangled legal snafu, there is a good chance (too soon to be sure yet) that she will come to us by the end of this year!! :) 

If all goes forward (we'll see), 51 year old me is gonna be daddy to a 1 year old! :shock: 

Some things in life are WORTH PROTESTING FOR, SHOUTING FOR, FIGHTING FOR ... WITHOUT VIOLENCE OR ANGER, OF COURSE! Be it a wrong to right, a war to stop, an injustice to prevent, a disease to cure ... it is okay to take to the streets (like those monks in Burma did), fight the good fight ... if peacefully. 

Yet today's passage from the Xin Xin Ming tells us:

If you wish to see the truth
then hold no opinions for or against anything.
To set up what you like against what you dislike is the disease of the mind.
When the deep meaning of things is not understood
the mind's essential peace is disturbed to no avail.

Having no opinions, no for or against ... yet standing up for what's right? Sounds like a great contradiction! These need not be in the least! Opinions with equanimity, pushing forward with no place to get, protest hand-in-hand with total acceptance! 
RESISTING FREE OF ALL RESISTANCE! Of course, one has to be careful ... for those cluttered boxes of adoption documents in the scene below could stand for the clutter of the mind that can result in trying times! Always know that white, clean, pristine space that holds all that and shines through all!

Seen with a Buddha's eye ... there is no contradiction at all. 

Today's Sit-A-Long video follows at this link. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 15 to 35 minutes is recommended.


Treeleaf Sangha marks the start of our annual ANGO (90-Day Special Practice Season) and, next week, the start of our JUKAI (Undertaking the Precepts) training ...

Additional information on Ango and Jukai at Treeleaf here:
viewtopic.php?f=7&t=4041 and viewtopic.php?f=7&t=4042

... by a series of sittings with the Xin Xin Ming, the Faith in Mind Verses (信心銘) ... one of the most cherished teachings in Zen/Chan Buddhism ... traditionally said to be the words of the Third Chinese Zen/Chan Patriarch Sengcan 僧璨 (though, even if likely not his words, and written by another fellow just a bit later, wonderful nonetheless). 

The Xin Xin Ming presents, straight and true, our trust in the fundamental mind of Zazen ... Zazen on the cushion, and 'Zazen' in its boundless meaning off the cushion as well, in and as our sometimes easy sometimes hard life. Today, sitting before the ugliness and hardship of earthquake wreckage piled high in Japan ... broken homes, broken glass, hearts and lives ... we will sit with the opening words (Translated by Richard B. Clarke):

The Great Way is not difficult
for those not attached to preferences.
When neither love nor hate arises,
all is clear and undisguised.
Separate by the smallest amount, however,
and you are as far from it as heaven is from earth.

No complicated meditation instructions are needed, no intricate practices, just this simple way pointing directly to a still (even amid & as the turmoil and commotion) and illuminated mind of equanimity and wholeness. This is the Buddha mind available to all of us ... as all of us ... all judgments and frictions dropped away, the divisions of 'self vs. others and the world' dropped away ... even amid a world we sometimes do not like, and in the heart of life's struggles and strife. 

What's more, this mind can come and go ... sometimes in a day, a single Zazen sitting, just a moment. In my talk, I also mention this poem attributed to Hui-Neng, the 6th Patriarch, pointing to how the Buddha Mind (though beyond coming and going) can come and go ... 

Deluded, a buddha is a sentient being;
awakened, a sentient being is a buddha.
ignorant, a buddha is a sentient being;
with wisdom, a sentient being is a buddha.
if the mind is warped, a buddha is a sentient being 
if the mind is impartial, a sentient being is a buddha.
when once a warped mind is produced, 
buddha is concealed within the sentient being.
if for one instant of thought we become impartial, 
then sentient beings are themselves buddha.

We will sit with this Xin Xin Ming over the coming days and weeks ... amid our lives of sometime ease and sometime difficulties, with the people and situations we seek and those we run from, the beautiful and the ugly ... all human judgments, resistance and separations.

What wholeness arises when all judgments and separations are dropped dropped away?

Please undertake the commitments and tasks of ANGO and JUKAI with this same attitude of dropping ... pushing ahead diligently, encountering both that which is easy and pleasing, and that which is hard or resisted ... with an attitude simultaneously transcending easy and hard, pleasing and displeasing. WONDROUS BUDDHA-MIND WILL APPEAR

Today's Sit-A-Long video follows at this link. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 15 to 35 minutes is recommended.