November 2011 Archives

Image This week's passage of the Xin Xin Ming instructs us how to live in this trying and hectic life, yet with a mind open, clear and free ... living amid and as this world of the senses, thoughts, goals, emotions -- yet light, unfettered, unbound ... seeing distinctions and complexity as Wholeness and Simplicity ... at once, as one ... 

If you wish to move in the One Way
do not dislike even the world of senses and ideas.
Indeed, to accept them fully
is identical with true Enlightenment.
The wise man strives to no goals
but the foolish man fetters himself.
This is one Dharma, not many: distinctions arise
from the clinging needs of the ignorant.
To seek Mind with the discriminating mind
is the greatest of all mistakes.

I am reminded of this description (by Zen Teacher Kyogen Carlson) of the lessons of clouds and water. I happened to read it this week. Kyogen talks of a Chinese poem which contains the line: "To drift like clouds and flow like water." 

... ... Neither clouds nor water insist upon

any particular form, for they take shape according to conditions. Clouds

attach to nothing, and so drift freely across the sky. Water twists and

turns on its way down hill in complete accord with the path it must

follow. The flowing of the water has the strength to move mountains,

while the drifting of the clouds is utterly free. In these qualities we

have a perfect description of the Zen mind. Just as clouds cling to

nothing, floating free and changing with the wind, acceptance of change

is the essence of nonattachment and expresses the perfect freedom of

meditation. Flowing water follows its course naturally, without

resistance or hesitation. This lack of resistance describes the

willingness at the heart of a true commitment to Zen practice, which

like water, has the strength to move mountains.

A very good way to move through and whole with the complexities of life. 

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 This picture from a temple in India is said to be the aged Buddha not feeling so well. In other images, the Buddha would recline when ill ... an excellent way to "lay" Zazen when one can't get out of bed ...


Our Xin Xin Ming today speaks of moments of freedom and clarity which can come even amid the murkiness, uncertainty and fear of being sick ...

Obey the nature of things,
and you will walk freely and undisturbed.
When thought is in bondage the truth is hidden,
for everything is murky and unclear,
and the burdensome practice of judging brings annoyance and weariness.
What benefit can be derived from distinctions and separations?

PS - Unlike America, they don't use anesthesia for colonoscopies in Japan ... in case you were wondering ... :) 

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


Dear All,

I am very content to make this announcement, on behalf of Taigu and myself, and ask everyone sitting with our Sangha and in the Greater Buddhist Sangha to join in its celebration. In the coming months, OUR TREELEAF SANGHA WILL WELCOME THROUGH "Home Leaving" ORDINATION FOUR NEW NOVICE-PRIEST TRAINEES, well known faces around our community ... Dosho (Scott), Soen (Ian), Shinkai (Allison) and Heitetsu (Chris). They will join our present Novice-Priest Trainees, Shohei, Fugen and Mongen. 

From time to time, after undertaking Zen practice for many years, a person may feel in their heart a certain calling. They may wish to train in our traditions and embody them in order to keep this way alive into the next generation as clergy. They may feel a calling within themselves to live as a servant and minister to the community, to the Sangha and to all living beings. 

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". Thus, the ancient ceremony of ordination in Buddhism became known asShukke Tokudo, "Leaving Home to Take the Way". Now, in modern Japan and in the West, one of the great changes in the nature of Buddhist clergy has been that most of us function more as "ministers" than "monks", with family and children, often with outside jobs as "Right Livelihood" supporting us, while ministering to a community of parishioners. This, in keeping with changes in cultures and society, has done much to bring Buddhism out from behind monastery walls. While, now, we may be living in a monastic setting for periods of weeks or months (and thus can be called "monks" during such times), we then return to the world beyond monastery walls, where these teachings have such relevance for helping people in this ordinary life. We are not bound by monastery walls, dropping all barriers separating "inside" from "out". 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 way, we find that Home that can never be left, take to the Way that cannot be taken. 

Someone's undertaking "Shukke Tokudo" is not a "raising up" of their position in the Sangha, it is not an honor or "promotion" into some exalted status, not by any meaning. Far from it, it is a lowering of oneself in offering to the community, much as all of us sometimes deeply bow upon the ground in humility, raising up others and the whole world above our humbled heads. 


It is to volunteer and offer oneself as the lowest 'sailor on the ship' at the beck and call of the passengers' well-being and needs, a nurse to help clean soiled linens, a brother or sister to sacrifice oneself for a family, a friend offering to help carry a burden. One must be committed sincerely to serve and benefit others, and one must not undertake such a road for one's own benefit, praise or reward.

What is more, the undertaking of "Shukke Tokudo" is not the end of the road of training, not by any meaningFar from it, it is but the first baby steps. Perhaps, years down the road, the person will find that that they still have the inner calling to continue this path ... and, perhaps, years down the road, they may have embodied this Tradition sufficiently to continue it and be certified as full "priest" and a teacher ... but there is no guaranty of any of that. For this reason, one undertaking "Home Leaving" is not yet recognized in the Zen world as truly a fully ordained "priest" for many years, and is called an "Unsui", meaning "clouds and water". The best translation in English is "apprentice priest" or "novice priest" or "priest trainee". Perhaps, years down the road, some trainees will be felt to have embodied these traditions sufficiently in order to function independently as teachers ... but not necessarily. For now, they are just school children expected to learn ... with the future not assured, and no promises about future promise. (Of course, we are all beginners, all children ... all learning from each other ... teachers learning from students too). 

We hope that, in the coming years, other people will feel this same calling. It must be by mutual decision. It is not something that should be rushed into, nor rushed through. Although people are all different, maybe a good time to first consider such a thing would be only after practicing for 5 years or longer, and then it should be deeply thought about (and non-thought about) for longer still before first taking on the responsibilities of being an apprentice student-priest. 

For now, Taigu and I are pleased to announce that Soen, Heitetsu, Shinkai and Dosho will be our next "class". Perhaps, it would be better to say "our next test subjects", joining Mongen, Shohei and Fugen in a great experiment here. The reason is that, given the nature of our Sangha, the coming years of training will have to be done in some traditional ways and some very new, innovative ways. If anyone wishes to download and read a very long and detailed statement of the 'goalless goals' of training that these people are expected to follow and come to embody ... here it is (33 pages, PDF). ... ects=0&d=1

These "Treeleaf Sangha Guidelines for Training Soto Zen Buddhist Clergy" are based, as closely as we can, upon guidelines for priest training established by the The Soto Zen Buddhist Association (SZBA) of North America. The process of training, with no guaranty that it can ever come to flower, will take several years. As our Guidelines state:

These Guideline seek to address four main topics for individuals wishing to train as clergy and teachers of Soto Zen Buddhism within the Treeleaf Sangha:

1. Purpose - What are we training priests for? How should a priest trainee gain necessary skills to function when out on their own, and how are they expected to function and conduct themselves both during and after training?

2. Standards - How do we train priests? What do we expect from a priest after ordination? What areas of work are essential?

3. Elements - What are the specific activities, events, and processes that make up priest training?

4. Stages - What do we expect of a person before ordination (shukke tokudo)? What, if any stages should priests pass through after ordination? 

However, these Guidelines, and our Sangha's program of training, are necessarily works in progress, and an ongoing endeavour, and thus subject to great experimentation, constant adjustment, flexibility and change throughout their unfolding. 


The purpose of priest training is to prepare individuals for a life dedicated to exemplifying the Dharma with integrity via empowering them to extend Buddhist teachings and Soto Zen practice out in the world, all in keeping with the traditional teachings of Soto Zen Buddhism and the philosophy of our Lineage. 

Priest training encourages the continuing unfolding of the Bodhisattva ideal characterized by the Six Paramitas of giving, ethical conduct, patience, energy, meditation, and wisdom. Yet the heart and flowering of our way is always Shikantaza, sitting and moving in stillness without grasping or rejecting any of the constantly arising and changing phenomena of life as-they-are, the life practice of the Buddhas and Ancestors manifesting and realizing the Genjô-kôan, the fundamental point actualized through this life-practice 

Although much of the training and experience-gathering to be acquired, by necessity in our Lineage, must occur at a distance, with some ingenuity and in small steps and pieces, all must be part of an unbroken whole. It is the quality of the results which matter most, and the maintenance of integrity throughout, more than the traditional road followed to arrive at the destination. In this training, both teacher and student must use care, employ great effort and creativity, overcome any hurdles and pay constant attention to detail such that no aspect of training is neglected.

Training, sometimes in a residential setting and sometimes not, sometimes in a group with others and sometimes by the student's own endeavors, will be based on the following perspectives ...

The period of formation that follows upon novice ordination (shukke tokudo) may continue for any number of years prior to possible (although never inevitable) Dharma Transmission, but truly continues as a lifelong endeavor that will sustain individuals dedicated to exemplifying the Dharma and the the Bodhisattva ideal. Completing formal priest training will mean that an individual has internalized the tradition, is capable of transmitting it, and vows to devote her or himself to a life of continuous practice and service.The individual's dedication to the elements of priest training must enable him or her to maintain a regular, disciplined zazen practice, to instruct and guide others in their practice, to present and discuss the history and teachings of Buddhism and Soto Zen, to perform services and ceremonies in the Soto style as appropriate and required in the circumstance, and to actively nurture and serve both Sangha and the larger community and society. 

In addition, priest training must make the individual aware of the highest ethical standards which must always be maintained by a member of the clergy, thereby assisting him or her in maintaining such standards in his or her personal life at all times. Training will also enable the individual to demonstrate personal qualities that inspire trust and confidence and encourage others to practice. Finally, training will enable the individual to clearly understand - and communicate to others - the relationship of Zen teaching and practice to everyday life.

We hope that you will join us in wishing Shinkai, Heitetsu, Soen, Dosho well in their start on this long undertaking. Soen's Ordination by his Teacher, Rev. Taigu Turlur, is planned to occur during our upcoming Winter Retreat in Belgium in December. Heitetsu, Dosho and Shinkai will be Ordained by me, Jundo, sometime in the early Spring. That ceremony is planned to occur much as our last Ordination Ceremony, on Three Continents simultaneously using all means of modern media, dropping all thought of place and time.

Most of in our community will know them very well from their almost daily participation here over several years, and the energy, wisdom and compassion they always bring to our community. 

What is more, we hope that they will be merely the most recent among other folks to follow in the years to come. 

As in all we undertake in our Sangha, the ceremony will not be limited to a specific location, much as our annual Jukai here at Treeleaf ... and we hope that you will all join us for the ceremonies when the time comes. 

Gassho, Jundo, and Taigu

SIT-A-LONG with Taigu: Fukanzazengi 2

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Now, we look into it, the truth is all-pervasive


Upon investigation,the Buddha enlightenment is all around 

Alors que nous la recherchons, la voie-vérité pénètre originellement toutes choses.

Awhile back, I reminded our Treeleaf Ango-ers that there are no mistakes in Ango, no way that life can intervene, that obstacles are just "opportunities for Practice" ... 



However, I certainly did not mean that one could just do the parts of Practice that one likes or is moved by, skipping the rest. I did not mean that, just because there are "no mistakes", such was an excuse to be careless or slack, being forgetful, just practicing whenever and however in hell we want! Although "life can NEVER intervene, and ALL of life is Practice" (yes, even how we play video games and how we watch TV), that does not mean we can just let life intervene, and consider that watching TV or playing a video game is the same as Practice and Zazen! To do so is to miss the central part of this practice ... dropping resistance to our aversions and attractions, dropping attachments and renouncing those things we hunger for ... dropping anger and other excess or otherwise harmful emotions ... finding balance in life neither too loose nor too tight, moving forward with diligence and sincerity and energy ... even as there is No Place to Go! In this Middle Way beyond "right and wrong" "easy and hard" "doing and non-doing" ...

... nonetheless, ONE CAN DO ANGO WRONG! :twisted: 

One can be too loose in this Practice, just as one can be too tight! One can run toward or away from what we like or dislike and resist, forgetting that this is a Practice founded upon dropping all "likes and dislikes" and resistance! Remember this week's portion of the Xin Xin Ming ... neither hard or easy ... neither fearful, slack and irresolute nor charging forward ... 

To live in the Great Way
is neither easy nor difficult,
but those with limited views
are fearful and irresolute: 
the faster they hurry, the slower they go.

Ours is the 'Middle Way' ... but that does not mean any namby pambyfence sitting, half hearted way that's middling, making do, mediocre and muddling through! 

I often repeat the story of Buddha, Sona and the Lute Strings ...

[The Buddha said], "Sona, you were a musician and you used to play the lute. Tell me, Sona, did you produce good music when the lute string was well tuned, neither too tight nor too loose?"

"I was able to produce good music, Lord," replied Sona.

"What happened when the strings were too tightly wound up?"

"I could not produce any music, Lord," said Sona.

"What happened when the strings were too slack?"

"I could not produce any music at all, Lord," replied Sona

"Sona ... You have been straining too hard in your meditation. Do it in a relaxed way, but without being slack. Try it again and you will experience the good result."

Fortunately, in this way of ever new beginnings in each moment ... ONE CAN EVER BEGIN RIGHT FROM HERE! 

Gassho, Jundo

Just letting things be in their own way (even the hard things in life) is neither easy nor hard.

Neither be hesitant and fearful, nor wound too tight and charging forward. (This reminds me of the Buddha's famous parable of the lute strings ... strung neither too loose nor too tight to produce beautiful music)

Do not cling, but be open and spacious beyond limits ... Do not even cling to the goal of 'not clinging' or Enlightenment

Do not run after or run away, but flow with the flow ... letting all things rest as they are. The more you chase after the goal, the further the goal becomes

To live in the Great Way
is neither easy nor difficult,
but those with limited views
are fearful and irresolute: 
the faster they hurry, the slower they go.
Clinging cannot be limited;
even to be attached to the idea of enlightenment 
is to go astray.
Just let things be in their own way
and there will be neither coming nor going.

That's how the game is played. Even as we chase after life's goals, to keep food on the table and the wolves from the door, running here and there ... abandon all chasing, running after or away. Win or lose ... the game is Won is One. 

(sorry about the sound quality today ... it is what it is too 8) )

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: Fukanzazengi 1

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