August 30, 2013 @ 10:45 pm
I would like to criticize some Soto Zen Teachers for how we may be teaching Shikantaza (I know that all the Soto Teachers fully understand what I say. My point is merely whether we are conveying the message clearly enough).
Yes, we teach the importance of sitting in a balanced way, be it in Lotus, Seiza, on a chair or the like. We may show students how to place the mind on the breath, the Hara, how to "return to the posture" or sit boundlessly or some other way. We may tell folks about "opening the hand of thought", letting thoughts and emotions go without getting caught in them. Yes, we emphasize that our way is "Goalless" sitting, or "good for nothing", and that one should leave at the door thoughts of "gaining enlightenment" or some extra-ordinary state ...
... but do we emphasize enough how Extra-Ordinary (beyond all small human weighing of "ordinary or extra-ordinary") Sitting Zazen Truly is? Are we too focused on the mechanics of sitting (as important as such is), and not on the Wondrous Embodiment of Buddha which sitting manifests? Do we teach that a moment of Zazen is Buddha Realized, All Fulfilled, Holy-Wholey-Whole that completes and allows all of life? Are we afraid of sounding too starry eyed about Zazen? Do we point students sufficiently to the Timelessness of sitting for a time, that Zazen is the One and Only Place to Be in that Moment of Sitting, holding all the Sutras? Do we teach that Zazen is a Sacred Complete Act? A Moment of Sitting As Enlightened Sitting, Gainless-Enlightenment-Gained?
Perhaps we are too focused on presenting Zazen as "just sitting" without getting to the heart of sitting as "Just All Reality, Every Mountain and Stone, All the Buddhas and Ancestors Sitting This Sitting"?
Master Dogen, when writing of Zazen, would remind us (this from Zanma-O-Zanmai. It makes my words seem quite understated!):
Now crossing the legs of the human skin, flesh, bones, and marrow, one crosses the legs of the king of samādhis samādhi. The World Honored One always maintains sitting with legs crossed; and to the disciples he correctly transmits sitting with legs crossed; and to the humans and gods he teaches sitting with legs crossed. The mind seal correctly transmitted by the seven buddhas is this.
The Buddha Śākyamuni, sitting with legs crossed under the bodhi tree, passed fifty small kalpas, passed sixty kalpas, passed countless kalpas. Sitting with legs crossed for twenty-one days, sitting cross-legged for one time — this is turning the wheel of the wondrous dharma; this is the buddha’s proselytizing of a lifetime. There is nothing lacking. This is the yellow roll and vermillion roller [that hold all the Sutras and Commentaries]. The buddha seeing the buddha is this time. This is precisely the time when beings attain buddhahood.
He pulls no punches.
And now turning from Teachers to Students, I wag my finger a bit more. So many (most?) who try Shikantaza for a time do not truly understand what it means to be wholly still, to not need to run after the next diversion or teaching or practice or book or entertainment. Or, they misunderstand our "goalless" sitting as some kind of complacency.
My biggest "complaint" about folks?
Most find it so hard to drop the "running here and there, chasing this and that" in life and "Just Sit" in Wholeness, "Just Sit" Buddha. Most are so used to looking for the answers "somewhere over the next hill" that they can't stop running, looking for the "next shiny thing". (Like the eye looking all around for the eye) Thus, they abandon the Practice too soon, running after the next promising thing, and the next. I have spoken about that many times before:
Oh, some folks "get it", what it truly means to find Stillness amid both life's stillness and motion, Silence that sings as quiet or music or the noise of bombs exploding. But other folks don't "get it", or take it that we are pushing merely complacency, resignation and passivity, which is not the case.
We are not preaching slogans from greeting cards, not tranquilized dullness, not a foresaking of vibrant curiosity and questioning, not prescribing a drug to bring numbness ... but Crystal Clarity and Wholeness.
Rising up from the cushion, whether lighting incense or changing a baby diaper, in the temple or the office, in a forest or the city streets ... we get done what needs to be done, move forward though no place to go. One might then be able to manifest that same Ordinary-Extra-Ordinary Wondrous Embodiment of Buddha, Fully Realized, All Fulfilled, Holy-Wholey-Whole, holding all Timeless-Time & Space, the One and Only Place to Be, a Sacred Act Complete ... in every moment and small action of life.
What is your true colors? How can you show your true color?
As the needle goes through the field of mokuran birds songs traffic sounds even the distant train even your sweet face clouded with suffering
all of them all are sewn into mokuran
Sitting with the beautiful AND the ugly in this world ... finding that which simultaneously transcends and holds, breathes in and breathes out, "beautiful vs. ugly" ... is our Practice.
We are free of aversion and attraction even as we have our ordinary human aversions and attractions, pulling the weeds we can and watering the flowers ... even as we embrace each as just what they are. One finds Wholeness, Light, Beauty that is unconcerned by small human judgments of beauty and ugliness.
We observe the terrible battle fields for what they are, even as we seek to make peace. We sit serenely in the sick room, even as we try to cure the disease. We transcend yet fully embrace a world of beauty and ugliness, even as we do what we can to mend the ugly and make it beautiful.
Is it not the same when we find a certain ugliness amid the beautiful in Buddhism too? A naive student who demands ONLY beauty and goodness in the world ... even the Buddhist world ... one sidedly rejecting the sometimes distasteful or even criminal, may miss the Real Treasure that shines through all of it. That is so even as, in our Wisdom and Equanimity, we keep pulling the weeds we can and nurture the flowers, praise the good and punish the wrongdoer. All at Once, the Eye of Buddha holding all.
Master Dogen quoted his Master's poem in Baike, On Plum Blossoms ... which flower on gnarled twisted branches in our garden each cold February ...
The thorn-like, spike-branched Old Plum Tree
Suddenly bursts forth, first with one or two blossoms,
Then with three, four, five, and finally blossoms beyond count.
... So Beautiful, So Beautiful
After Jundo s eloquent post and video, my humble take on the subject.
Much like the beautiful dancing Dorothy on the yellow bricks road, OUR JOB IS TO UNMASK THE WIZARD, in other words to dispell the illusion of the ego and turn the three poisons, the three little companions of Dorothy into compassion, wisdom and action.
Taigu, our other Teacher here at Treeleaf, posted this week that he was going through some HARD TIMES at home and work, feeling stress and the blues from his job. Taigu recounted a story about the great Tibetan Teacher Chogyam Trungpa who, according to detailed accounts by his wife, suffered from frequent bouts of depression so severe that Trungpa was sometimes pushed to the point of considering suicide. (page 27 to 29 here) Taigu was talking about a little blues in his own case, not anything like Trungpa. Even so, some folks contacted me privately this week expressing surprise, believing that Buddhist Teachers should be beyond the blues and all stresses of life, perpetually in a realm of all encompassing bliss and tranquility. After all, isn't that the point of ENLIGHTENMENT?
Well, what may startle some folks is that Enlightenment does allow one to be totally beyond the blues and all stresses of life, free of loss and longing and sickness and aging and death ... even right in, as and amid days of sadness, times of stress, loss and longing, sickness and aging and death. BOTH VIEWS AND THE VIEWLESS, AT ONCE AS ONE. Oh, one should not be a prisoner of extremes ... falling into anger and violence, excess longing and greed, life halting depression and thoughts of suicide, destructive panic, uncontrolled regret and other harmful extremes of thought and emotions. However, the full range of moderate, healthy emotions ... life's normal ups and downs ... are what life is about and are not to be fled. Heck, any human being can even suffer depression or some other human weakness for a period. At the same time, right in the ups and downs, this Buddhist Way allows us to simultaneously taste a way of being thoroughly transcending up and down ... all at once. Strange as it may sound, one may sing and feel the blues ... and be beyond the blues ... at once.
Perhaps the very concept of "Enlightenment", and the point of this Buddhist enterprise, has evolved over the centuries ... into something far more subtle and powerful than even the early interpretations of long ago. You see, originally, the goal of early Buddhism might actually be best described as total escape from this world which is seen as a realm of suffering. Family, home and ordinary life were to be left behind on a path of cooling and abandoning human emotions and human ties. This life, the possibility of rebirth, was not looked upon as something positive to be lived, but as something to be fled. The goal was halting the endless chain of birth and death and rebirth.
Next, a concept of "Buddhahood" developed in which a Buddha or other Enlightened Master might be beyond all human attachments, sadness, fear, regret, longing, and all the rest even in this life. This is still perhaps the most widely held image of "the point of Buddhist Practice" that most Buddhist folks are to aim for. Old Buddhist Sutras, myths and hagiographic histories, painting exaggerated portraits of our long dead heroes, contribute to the image by stripping such saints and supermen of every human weakness or failing, thus building an idealized legend.
But with the passing centuries, a much more subtle viewless view of "Enlightenment" developed, and this is perhaps the most powerful of all. For in this "Enlightenment", one could live fully this up and down life, with family and household responsibilities and work and all the pains of normal life, the rainy days and sunny ... feeling it all ... yet simultaneously, thoroughly free of it all. Amid sadness, feeling sadness yet simultaneously embodying that Joy that sweeps in both small human happiness and sadness. Knowing birth and death, the travails of aging and passing time ... yet simultaneously free of birth and death and time. Oh sure, one still needed to avoid the extremes and perils of harmful emotions such as excess greed, anger and all the other chains of the runaway mind ... but in so doing, the result is a kind of "Buddha cake and eat it too" view of an enlightened life amid Samsara. Yes, the Buddha DOES TOTALLY ESCAPE from the world and the prison of Samsara ... right here amid the prison of Samara, right at the heart of the sometimes hard and stressful times of human life. There is a Peace, Beauty and Wholeness that holds all the broken pieces, both the beautiful and oh so ugly, the simple pleasures and unavoidable pains, of this complex world.
If you ask me, that is the most powerful view of Enlightenment, allowing Peace and Joy right amid a full, rich and balanced life, freedom from birth and death while born and growing old and someday dying. I would not trade it for any other Enlightenment even if all the Buddhas and Ancestors were to appear before me and point elsewhere. Anyway, in my heart, I do not believe they would.
THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ZEN TALK YOU WILL EVER HEAR. It will save Zen Students endless tail chasing and dead-ends, disappointments and wasted days. It will allow every Sitting to be Magnificent ... both the Sittings which are magnificent and those which are not. One will never be let down by one's Zen's Practice again ... nor by one's life, family and friends, nor this whole world ... both when fulfilling your every dream and when falling far short.
In an old Koan from the Book of Serenity (Ganto's Bow and Shout) a Zen student of too little experience but too much self conceit (as is true of so many modern Zen Students) shows up at the doorway of a Sangha. He demands, full of opinions, "Is this place sacred or just common? Is it what I think I want from the Zen I picture? Is it 'real Zen' or just fake Zen, and are the Teachers enlightened as I want 'enlightened' to look and seem?"
The Teacher in the Koan then demonstrates Dharma with a KATZU! Shout ... perhaps a GREAT Wordless Teaching or perhaps just a hackneyed cliche clunker. The student, moved, may decide to stay. Or, judgmental and dreaming, filled with golden expectations, the same Zen Student may feel disappointed with the Teachings offered (compared to how he thinks they "should" sound ... even if he is not quite sure how that is.). He leaves ... either right away or after some time ... thinking "there is no True Dharma here." He may judge based on having read too many Zen story books, where all the characters of the past have been cleaned up and dipped in gold (Although please read some of the old books such as the Vinaya, and you will find what a frustrating mess, with folks bumping noses, was Sangha even in the Buddha's day ). In either case, the foolish student fails to hear the TRUE SHOUT! ... the Great Wordless Teaching found both in the inspiring moment and the hack and cliche'd klunk.
The student fails to realize that the Best Zen Sangha may be that which is sometimes inspiring and sometimes discouraging, and the Best Buddhist Teachers and Friends those who are frequently uplifting and sometimes frustrating and mostly in between ... the ones who sometimes meet your ideals, but sometimes don't.
For what the Zen Student must find is Such which is Common-Holy, Specially Unspecial, fulfilling all desires ... both with what is wanted and what is not. The student most find freedom from the small human self ... filled with aversions and attractions, dreams and feelings of incompleteness and lack (the "I" in "I'm disappointed"). Can one know the Real that sweeps in and sweeps through 'real' or 'fake'? Can the Great Teaching be heard that shouts at the Unbreakable Heart of both the sparkling talks or thrilling moments and the dull or dumb, the Timeless both in the 'time well spent' and so-called 'waste of time'? Can one experience the Wholly Holy Whole, which fills all the high mountains climbed and barren holes one falls in. Can one find that True Way from which there is no way to "go away"? Even the frauds and fake Teachers, even the Teachers with weaknesses and failings, even the the greatest abusers and predators are Teaching to those with a Buddha's Eye to see.
Is this a clarion call to complacency and mediocrity, acceptance of the ugly without attempt at repair? FAR FROM IT! Yet there are two kinds of Sangha or Teacher that, I feel, do a disservice to students. One is a place or person that is too lax, too careless, which fails to provide beneficial opportunities for Practice, or (in some fortunately very VERY few cases) where real abuse and other bad acts occur. But, counter-intuitive as it may seem, a Sangha or Teacher which meets all the student's expectations, golden dreams, ideals and desires too would be a disservice (not to mention unlikely to ever truly appear, at least for the long haul when the rose colored honeymoon is done. It would be as misleading as the world of 'Gods' in the Six Realms, where all is given that is desired). Why? Because as with all of this life, all this world, one must come to see through personal judgments of both "sacred" and "ordinary", good and bad, flashy or dull, entertaining or painful, satisfying and disatisfying, true vs. fake ... thus to find a Truth beyond selfish expectations, disappointments, dreams, ideals and failings to meet a mark, thus to find the Mark Always Met. The best Teacher or Community, as strange as it sounds, may be one that ... like the universe ... sometimes inspires and sometimes frustrates, sometimes energizes and sometimes bores, sometimes astounds and sometimes leaves cold ... all so that one might find Astounding Energetic Inspiration even right at the heart of the frustratingly dull or unbearably cold.
This is not a call for complacency, resignation or merely "putting up with" ... but a call to PIERCE RIGHT THROUGH!
Our Treeleaf Sangha is a wonderfully imperfect place, often beautiful and often filled with small frictions. Our Teachers here are well-meaning but mediocre clods and fools. Yet This Place, This Dharma, This Buddha, sits beyond all human weighing and rating.
Here is a talk by me, the Best Zen Talk You Will Ever Hear, yet just middling and unspecial. Is it worth the time? Is it a waste of time?
........................... 'Tis Timeless whether worth or waste.
My Dharma Bro. BRAD WARNER has written (HERE) that we are not Zen "Clergy" ... or at least, he is not "Clergy". He writes ...
Zen has to be just a little bit dangerous. If it’s not, it ceases to be Zen. The reason that Zen can go as deeply as it does into the question of what it means to be truly human comes in a large part because it’s not entirely safe. The safer, more rule-bound, more structured and organized it becomes, the shallower and less valuable it gets. Nobody gets hurt (supposedly) but nobody learns much of anything either.
I completely agree, except that I don't. In fact, I totally disagree, except that Brad is totally right. Anyway, what one does is more important than some artificial name or category. Beyond names and mental categories.
Our Teacher, GUDO WAFU NISHIJIMA, was a Traditionalist (as seen in the picture over there with the funny hat and fly swatter), except when he wasn't at all. Sometimes he taught us to follow "Old Timeless Traditions", but often he told us to make "New Timeless Traditions" fitting for our culture and times. Sometimes he told us that his way was to be "his way or the highway", except when he let us go our own way. Sometimes he stuck closely to every word and rule of Dogen, except when he didn't.
So, are we artisans? clergy? artists? wandering musicians? ministers? comedians? priests? rabbis? bakers or candle stick makers?
There is a saying in the news business that "IF IT BLEEDS IT LEADS". An air crash or other tragedy captures the headlines and is endlessly examined by 24 hour news coverage, while the thousands ... hundreds of thousands ... of safe landings and uneventful flights that same day never make the news (Can you even imagine the strange headline ... "BULLETIN: PLANES MAKE NORMAL LANDINGS, NOTHING HAPPENED!!"). That leads to the unfortunate misperception that flying is dangerous, when in fact there have been record low fatalities in recent years, especially given the mushrooming number of flights and millions of passengers filling the skies. Countless folks get where they are heading, safe and sound across the world, and the most perilous part of flying is probably the mad taxi ride to the airport.
It is much the same situation in Western Zen these days, where a handful of crashed Teachers lead some to the falacious impression that there is some wide spread systemic problem in the Zen world. Critics, often foolishly shortsighted or even with an axe to grind, are quick to assert that the whole Zen adventure is dangerous or corrupt based on isolated and extreme situations. Nothing could be farther from the truth! What such doomsayers overlook is the fact of all the other teachers ... hundreds of caring, devoted, wise, compassionate, well trained, illuminating, enlightening folks ... who do not get involved in such things, who range from competent to truly gifted pilots who do not do harm to their students and, in fact, bring illumination and change lives for the better. They are out shadowed by the few (a very few) teachers who have crashed and burned.
This is not to discount the importance of shedding light on, uncovering, openly discussing and analyzing the few cases of abuse, for to do so is the only way to address the problem, help past victims and prevent future incidents in that same Sangha or others. It is much as air crash inspectors dissect every incident with an airliner, finding the cause and proposing a remedy so that like accidents will not repeat (a system that has been very effective to making flying very safe these days). We must not fail to aid even one victim of abuse, we must not turn our eyes the other way. That is why places like Sweeping Zen have done a tremendous service for all of us by reporting these incidents in all their gory detail, tearing away the cover-ups and excuses by "see no evil" types and apologists. Honest reporting is the first step to true healing and reform. Nonetheless, doing so can be misunderstood or misrepresented by some as an attack on all of Zen that focuses only on the negatives. Such is simply not the case.
In Zen flying, ultimately, there is no up or down, no place to fall or need for rescue. We passengers are each Buddha, riding on a jet that is also Buddha, with each engine and wheel, pilot and pillow just Buddha, Buddha, Buddha. It rises from 'Buddha International Airport', into skies and clouds just Buddha, over Buddhamountains, no place in need of going on the way to Buddha somewhere down the line. Buddha, flying Buddha across Buddha to get to Buddha all around. Nonetheless, one of the paradox-non-paradoxes of this Zen Way is that ... though there is no place to fall, no way to die ... fall and die we might! Thus we must be on our guard, careful in flying and maintaining the plane and diligent as the crew with lives in our hands. Thus, yes, there are things that need to be fixed about Buddhism, both in the West and back in the old countries. Some issues are quite serious (I am quite the vocal critic of many things in fact, calling for reform).
But don't let folks use scattered problems and a handful of disasters to distract from all the safe landings. The skies are clear and wide open.
Samsara, this world we live in, is thus. It is a world filled with great beauty and sometime great ugliness, human beings who live in peace and those who kill. Sometimes innocent children die. Today is a day for tears.
The true evil doer is greed, anger and ignorance, mental illness. That is the disease, that is the real culprit.
Yet, the Buddha also Teaches of a View of Views, free of birth and death, beyond violence, with no separate killer or killed, no gain or loss in Wholeness ... and so no hearts which can be broken thus. We must keep the View that these little children have returned to This which is never left. May their parents and loved ones also find Peace.
Even though there is This beyond violence and death, nothing to break or repair ... hand in hand, we must work hard to fix this world and make it better for the future, ending the violence, poverty, sickness.
All at once. This is our Practice.
I would suggest that the best place to make a contribution is to a charity dedicated to ending gun violence or violence in general. Here are some suggestions ...
Brady Center To Prevent Gun Violence
Futures Without Violence
Following up on a prior talk by me called Sex Scandal Finger Wagging (Link Here), I now wish to call out some other damn foolish behavior witnessed in the ongoing big hoo-hah about Sasaki Roshi at SweepingZen.Com ...
I wag my finger at those so invested in their religious or other heroes and "gurus", their idealism and romanticism about "Enlightened Roshis", that they are blind to serious failings, look the other way even when seeing the reality before their eyes, try to explain things away, try to compartmentalize the wrongdoing as somehow unconected to his otherwise "Enlightened Nature", accuse the whistle blowers for the whistle blowing and, as a final escape, characterize years of sexual harassment and abuse and other serious flaws as actually "a Great Spiritual Teaching" "Skillful Means" or the like. Baloney.
I tsk tsk those who go to the other extreme and label all Zen Teachers as frauds, hollow Robes, corrupt, use these events as an excuse to reject all Buddhist Teachers as unhelpful and even harmful, and participating in Sangha guided by a Teacher as not "real Zen". More Baloney. For 2500 years, in China, Japan and all the rest of Asia, Zen and Buddhism has been largely a Tradition bound, Teacher based path ... and the so called "Zen Iconoclasts" were pretty darn conservative actually. You have little understanding of Zen history.
I also call out (a little bit) Adam, the publisher of Sweeping Zen. SweepingZen is a valuable resource to the Zen Community, an effort to offer an alternative to the mainstream Buddhist magazines that often seem to present a certain purified and pablum view of Buddhism. SweepingZen is providing a real service to all of us by shedding light on some dark corners and serious issues which, I expect, will leave this Way stronger and better rooted in the end. Other Zen Forums have often tried to sweep such things under the rug, paint a rosy picture of Zen, silence critics and whistle blowers. Adam, as the editor of the publication, needs to develop a bit more of a thick skin to those who do no want such hard questions discussed, and wish to shoot him as the messenger for bringing the message. However, I also think that he may need to exercise a bit more editorial moderation to make sure that discussion and commenting stays civil, avoids mud slinging and falsity and rumor, as in any reputable news publication and all within the bounds of Right Speech.
I wag my finger at Kuzan Peter Schireson and his wife, Myoan Grace Schireson. Although I am big fans of both, and a friend, and support Grace's efforts at prevention and healing of situations of abuse in the Zen Community (even as I think that it is sometimes a bit extreme), I believe they both stepped over the line in making and sticking to descriptions of Brad Warner that are false, twist and wrongly malign his character. They should apologize in the clearest terms for having done so, and they have not done so. Shame on them for that.
I also wag my finger at Brad Warner (although I forgot to mention this in the video), for being so up in arms about sarcastic postings and a comments section at SweepingZen that is open and a free-for-all in which false accusations and rumors and sharp words can sometimes be left without check ... much the same editorial policy (or lack thereof) that Brad has maintained on his own blog for years. That's the pot calling the kettle black. Brad should get his nose out of a twist and support the efforts being made at SweepingZen as an alternative Zen online magazine ... the kind of place where Brad should fit right in.
I wag my finger at Buddha, Hui-Neng, Dogen and all the Ancestors for faults that we don't know about because they were likely scrubbed up in history after they were dead.
Finally, I wag my finger at myself ... for wagging my finger at everyone else, and probably pissing off more than a few of the wagees. And also, for any faults and failings of my own. May my students someday write about me honestly, for better or worse, both while I am alive and after I am dead.
Moreover, remembering the natural sage of Jetavana park, we can [still] see the traces of his six years of upright sitting. We can still hear rumours of the transmitter of the mind-seal at Shaolin, spending nine years facing the wall. The ancient saints were like that already: how could people today fail to practice wholeheartedly?
De plus, alors que nous pensons au sage inné de Jevatna, nous pouvons percevoir les traces de ces six années d'assise. Ainsi de Bodhidharma qui transmit le seceau de l'esprit et resta neuf annees face au mur. Si telle était la conduite des sages d'antan, comment pourrait on aujourdhui ne pas pratiquer corps et âme?
Halloween is a good time to talk about ...
... the things that SCARE US!
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
Dogen writes these few verses:
In the stream
to the dusty world
my fleeting form
casts no reflection
Echoing a distant poem of Tozan in the Jewel Mirror Samadhi:
it is like looking into a precious mirror
form and image behold each other
You are not it, it is you
OUR ZAZENKAI marks the COMMENCEMENT OF ANGO and our upcoming GLOBAL DAY OF SERVICE
ALSO, AN (unintentionally very quiet) CHANTING OF "WE SHALL OVERCOME" SHALL BE IN PLACE OF THE 'IDENTITY OF RELATIVE AND ABSOLUTE (Sandokai)' THIS TIME ..
... and note other sound issues, and that we have no netcast the last 15 minutes ...
Please 'sit-a-long' with our MONTHLY 4-hour ZAZENKAI, netcast LIVE 8am to noon Japan time Saturday morning (that is New York 7pm to 11pm, Los Angeles 4pm to 8pm (Friday night), London midnight to 4am and Paris 1am to 5am (early Saturday morning))
... to be visible at the following link during those times and any time thereafter ...
LIVE ZAZENKAI NETCAST at GOOGLE+ IS HERE:
CLICK ON THE TAB ON LOWER RIGHT FOR 'FULL SCREEN
WATCH LIVE 'ONE WAY' AND SIT-A-LONG. IF JOINING WITH CAMERA, PLEASE MAKE SURE YOUR MICROPHONE IS MUTED:
The Sitting Schedule is as follows;
00:00 - 00:50 CEREMONY (HEART SUTRA / SANDOKAI IN ENGLISH) & ZAZEN
00:50 - 01:00 KINHIN
01:00 - 01:30 ZAZEN
01:30 - 01:50 KINHIN
01:50 - 02:30 DHARMA TALK & ZAZEN
02:30 - 02:40 KINHIN
02:40 - 03:15 ZAZEN
03:15 - 03:30 KINHIN
03:30 - 04:00 METTA CHANT & ZAZEN, VERSE OF ATONEMENT, FOUR VOWS, & CLOSING
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'. Oh, and lots and lots of Zazen and walkin' Kinhin in between!
Please download and print out the Chants we will recite at the following link (PDF):
Chant Book (PDF)
Chant Book (SHORT VERSION HTML)
I STRONGLY SUGGEST THAT YOU POSITION YOUR ZAFU ON THE FLOOR IN A PLACE WHERE YOU ARE NOT STARING DIRECTLY AT THE COMPUTER SCREEN, BUT CAN GLANCE OVER AND SEE THE SCREEN WHEN NECESSARY. YOUR ZAFU SHOULD ALSO BE IN A POSITION WHERE YOU CAN SEE THE COMPUTER SCREEN WHILE STANDING IN FRONT OF THE ZAFU FOR THE CEREMONIES, AND HAVE ROOM FOR BOWING AND KINHIN.
ALSO, REMEMBER TO SET YOUR COMPUTER (& SCREEN SAVER) SO THAT IT DOES NOT SHUT OFF DURING THE 4 HOURS.
I hope you will join us ... an open Zafu is waiting. When we drop all thought of 'here' 'there' 'now' 'then' ... we are sitting all together!
I want to wag my finger, not just at the Zen teachers caught in scandals recently (although at most of them too), but at the reactions of some folks to the scandals. Particularly, I want to call out:
Those folks ... some of them fellow Buddhist priests or moderators of Buddhist forums ... who would seek to ignore, hide or explain away some of these scandals, like sweeping dirt under a rug. Shame on them, shame on all of us, and we are contributing in part to these things if we do not look them square on.
But at the same time, I wish to question those folks who would lump all these so called "sex scandals" together ... both the few (very few!) true predators, date rapists, serial seducers and other abusers who misuse their role, trust and influence as "teachers" and clergy ... and those other folks who may have fallen into a very ordinary intimate affair between grown, mature consenting adults. All are not cut from the same cloth, and the second group should not be treated the same as the first. I most certainly agree that a teacher should almost never commence a sexual relationship with a student ... much as a psychologist should never have a sexual relationship with a patient ... because of the potential disparity in power, reliance, psychological influence and vulnerability between the parties. I also agree that those married clergy who fall into extra-marital affairs have cause to reflect on their actions in light of their marriage vows and the Precepts on honesty. But the fact of the matter is that Japanese Lineage clergy are not generally celibate, and there will be cases truly between consenting adults with no misuse or important trigger in the power, position or influence of the teacher as teacher or serious moral offense beyond someone breaking their marriage vows. While I see every reason to criticize ... and suspend or punish or defrock ... the real predators and power abusers, I see little reason to treat the same way every case of sexual doings, and let's be careful in distinguishing which is which.
I also wag my finger at those folks who profess to have lost their trust in all Zen or Buddhist Teachers because of the missteps of a few. Baloney! A few bad apples do not spoil the whole apple orchard, and the fact is that most ... the vast majority of ... Buddhist Teachers I know are sincere, honest, dedicated, committed folks who generally would not hurt a fly.
I also tisk tisk those folks who think that, because a Zen Master shows any failing at all ... from losing his cool from time to time, showing some weakness in personality, having some vice ... that completely disqualifies the teacher from all right and entitlement to teach (let along teach well!). Such a view is typical of the ZEN IDEALISTS AND ROMANTICS out there, looking for perfect Zen teachers without a fault or failing, who think that "Enlightenment" means never making a mistake in the words out of one's mouth, and never having a "bad hair day" again. TIME TO COME DOWN FROM THE CLOUDS! I would say that, if you are looking for a good Zen guide, find a man or woman who sometimes falls down, makes mistakes, makes a donkey's ass of him or herself... and observe closely what happens, watch how he or she does it. Oh, don't get me wrong... probably you do not want as a teacher someone who falls down each and every day, nor someone who falls down too BIG (robbing banks, lying profusely and intentionally starting fires, for example ... nor the few aforesaid predators or serial seducers). No, I mean someone who... every so often, now and then, like everyone... makes a fool of him/herself, loses his Zen Master cool, over-indulges, yields to temptation, does a real face-flop, says something she regrets, breaks some (hopefully not too big) Precepts in some very human way. Observe how does this person recover their balance? With what grace do they fall and, more importantly, get back up on their feet? Do they profoundly reflect on their mistakes, learn from them, apologize sincerely to anyone hurt (hopefully not too badly) ... and move on? As a matter of fact, since this crazy practice is greatly about living with some grace in this imperfect, often disappointing, trap and temptation filled world, a teacher with a couple of serious imperfections may be a good guide on how to avoid, lessen or escape the worst of it!
That leads me, finally, to cluck cluck at two corollary misconceptions about Zen Teachers:
The first misconception is that Zen Teachers ... Zen Masters ... are ever supposed to be as perfect as a Buddha, beyond all error and mistake, totally one with the universe, always doing what is to be done in every situation, always speaking with a Buddha's tongue, never possibly to trip or fall, at total peace and harmony and wholeness with all this self-life-world, each and all Golden Buddhas and Perfect Jewels. Hockey-pucks! That is the view of some overly idealistic folks who have read too many Lineage Legends and Sutra story books in which our religious heroes and icons ... after being dead and gone ... are dipped in gold and polished up into super-human characters. Sure, as in any religion, we have many TRULY saintly and inspired, enlightened and enlightening folks in our Tradition, living and dead. However, most of the image of "Zen Master" is a bit of religious hype and propaganda.
In my view, a "master" is someone with some "mastery" in an art or tradition to practice, pass on and pass down ... from carpentry to medicine to martial arts to Zen Buddhary. It need not mean the "master" is perfect and never errs. One can be a "master carpenter", yet not every corner will always be smooth; a "master surgeon" and lifesaver of thousands, yet sometimes make a bad cut, bungled diagnosis or deadly error. However, one should be pretty darn skilled in applying the art in life, and much more skilled and competent than those without the skills required. As in mastery in the martial arts, there is no technique in Zen for never being hit or never losing one's footing ... let alone for winning every battle ... there is no training offered on how to never fall, but rather, endless training on how to fall well. Show me the man or woman who encounters life's obstacles, sunny and rainy days, loops and losses, ups and downs ... all the mess and mayhem of Samsara ... who may be sometimes knocked sideways or down ... but who demonstrates how to be hit well and recover one's footing ... and I will show you a great Zen teacher.
One of the unfortunate aspects of religion is the tendency to put the leader or "guru" on a pedestal as being perfect, beyond any and all human failing ... always wise, never saying the wrong thing, always balanced and in control. The Lineage legends and Sutra story books tend to dip in gold and place on pedestals all our long dead ancestors, scrubbing them of every human failing. I think that unfortunate. Plenty of wannabe cult leaders are ready to play to such an image even now ... and plenty of "need a daddy to tell me what to do" students are ever willing to buy into it. That is a shame.
In fact, there are really no "Zen Teachers" ... for Zen cannot be taught. The "Teachers" are more like experienced "Dharma Friends" offering tips and coaching to help the seeker do all the heavy lifting ... and sitting ... and living ... on their own.
No, there are no Zen masters who are as perfect as a Buddha, beyond all error and mistake, totally one with the universe, always doing what is to be done in every situation, always speaking with a Buddha's tongue, never possibly to trip or fall, at total peace and harmony and wholeness with all this self-life-world, each and all a Golden Buddha and Perfect Jewel.
But that leads to the last misconception:
For, in fact, ALL Zen masters (even the predators and abusers!) are as perfect as a Buddha, beyond all error and mistake, totally one with the universe, always doing what is to be done in every situation, always speaking with a Buddha's tongue, never possibly to trip or fall, at total peace and harmony and wholeness with all this self-life-world, each and all Golden Buddhas and Perfect Jewels. TRULY! I KID YOU NOT!
Sound like a contradiction? (Zen had lots of those!)
You see, so are you ... and all people ... and every mountain and tree and star! Each and All Buddha, Beyond Error and Mistake, totally at one piece and harmony and wholeness with the universe, all preaching with a Buddha's tongue, with no place possibly to fall etc. etc. "Enlightenment" is a realization that there is no place to fall, ultimately no self to stumble, no "mistake" that can ever be made. All things are Perfect Jewels in their way, Whole. That is true. But it is just as true that there is no place to fall, no stumbling or possible mistake... even as we may fall and stumble and make mistakes!
The Zen Master should simply realize (know and embody) that fact more than the average bloke ... and hopefully have some skill in helping her students realize such too in their lives.
I have friends these days who are feeling the pain of cancer, grief at the death of a spouse, worry over a sick child, a broken heart from a broken marriage, fear and despair from loss of a job. I wish I could take their pain away, but I can't. Zazen is powerless for all of it too, and can't cure their cancer, remove the physical pain, heal the baby, bring back the lost loved one or fix the economy. Zazen is useless in that way. Even the buddha could not escape sickness, old age and death, and in some of the old Suttas (such as quoted here from the Sangiti Sutta) had to give up Teaching on days when feeling too poorly (Some Buddhists say he was just pretending to be sick as "expedient means", but I don't think so):
"Shariputra, you think of a discourse on Dhamma to give to the monks. My back aches, I want to stretch it."
"Very good, Lord." Replied Shariputra.
The buddha is quoted in his last days (from the Maha-Parinibbana Sutta):
"Now I am frail, Ananda, old, aged, far gone in years. This is my eightieth year, and my life is spent. Even as an old cart, Ananda, is held together with much difficulty, so the body of the Tathagata is kept going only with supports. It is, Ananda, only when the Tathagata, disregarding external objects, with the cessation of certain feelings, attains to and abides in the signless concentration of mind, that his body is more comfortable."
A recent posting by one of our Sangha members described his use of Zazen in place of anesthesia for minor surgery, and medical research shows that Zazen meditation resembling Shikantaza appears to reduce sensitivity to moderate pain. However, although some forms of meditation and self-hypnosis are helpful for relieving pain by concentrating or redirecting the mind away from the aches and the like ... probably modern pharmaceutical pain killers (despite the drawbacks) will do a quicker and more thorough job in this 21st century. Although a very helpful tool in some forms of pain reduction as one link in dealing with chronic pain and the like, I believe that Zazen's real real strength is not there.
Likewise, while Zazen may (studies show) help or sometimes fully relieve depression or various other psychological conditions such as stress, panic disorders and various neurosis, it may not for the most stubborn cases or those with a physiological origin (as some sometimes depressed or alcoholic modern Buddhist Teachers like Taizan Maezumi, Chögyam Trungpa and Soen Nakagawa should attest). One had best seek counseling, medical treatment, a 12-Step Program or the like hand in hand with Zazen.
Zazen can't even fix a bad tooth (you need to see a dentist, not a Zen Master, for that!) For the most part, Zazen will not relieve human pain.
But "pain" is not "suffering" (Dukkha) in a Buddhist sense. This Dukkha is a special Buddhist word, perhaps best rendered as “dissatisfaction,” “anxiety,” “disappointment,” “unease at imperfection,” or “frustration” — the conditions wherein your little “self” wishes this life/world to be X, yet this life/world is not X. The dissatisfaction and anxiety at the "gap" is "Dukkha". For "Dukkha/Suffering", Zazen is absolutely a complete and thorough cure for everything that ails us! How?
Well, on the one hand, the buddha left us a way to encounter a realm (also called "Buddha" ... but with a Big "B") where there is no pain, no disease, no birth or death, no separation, no loss, no bad teeth from the start ... because no individual selves to feel it! Zazen is the door. Of course (like the buddha's bad back), one will certainly continue to encounter days of pain, sickness, oral cavities and all the rest so long as one is alive in a human body (until we all leave this visible samsaric world and become Big B Buddha through and through!). Unfortunately, so long as we are alive in this messy world there will still be cancer, broken bones, broken hearts, broken relationships and all the rest. However (and strange as it may seem) through our Zen Practice, we also encounter a view free of a "we" to encounter any of that ... At Once!
Strange as it may seem, when these two views are combined, we experience pain AND freedom from pain at once, separation AND wholeness at once, death AND no death at once, holes in life or broken dreams AND nothing ever missing or breakable at once. A bad tooth AND a Buddha's Smile At Once, As One.
We also encounter a Buddha's Way of living filled with total allowing, letting be, radical acceptance of the pain, embracing of every loss and tragedy. That is so even as part of us, the human part, still cannot allow, tolerate or accept the pain, loss and tragedy one bit. When the two are combined as one, what results is an allowing-though not allowing, a 'letting be' even while (simultaneously) passionately resisting, and an acceptance without acceptance of pain, loss and tragedy. Such seemingly contradictory ways of living with pain and tribulations can be lived at once, as one. We are better able to bear it all, shoulder it, endure. Thus (as counter-intuitive and contradictory as it may sound) we experience human fear and a Buddha's fearlessness at once, sadness and endless peace at once, physical pain which we scream from -and- spiritual calm at once, a broken heart and nothing ever broken at once.
No, Buddhism and Zazen can not fix your cancer, busted marriage, broken incisor or other hard times. In life, there’s sickness, old age, death, loss … other physical and mental pain. But that’s not why ‘Life is Suffering‘. Not at all, said the Buddha. For:
... sickness is "suffering", but only when we refuse the condition …
… old age, if we long for youth …
… death, because we cling to life …
… loss is "suffering", when we cannot let go …
... violated expectations, when we wish life otherwise …
Thus, in Zazen, learn to live a way of life accepting, embracing, allowing, fully flowing as, celebrating a life of inevitable sickness, getting old, someday dying ourself or letting go of those we love, ups and down, gains and losses, sometime wins and sometime defeats ...
... cast them all into the great dance of Emptiness, and dance along ...
... learn to live with such total allowing and acceptance even as you cry sometimes, moan sometimes, are sad or grieving or depressed sometimes ...
and thus (as humans do) you may still feel days of sadness, fear, loneliness or hurt ... but also Joy, Peace, Satisfaction, Wholeness and Completeness ... AT ONCE! ...
... you will feel times of pain like an aging buddha did ... but also Total Liberation from Dukkha, from Suffering.
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
Even if, proud of our understanding and richly endowed with realizations, we obtain special states of insight, attain the truth, clarify the mind, manifest a zeal that pierces the sky, and ramble through those remote spheres that are entered with the head; we have almost completely lost the vigorous path of getting the body out.
Même si, fiers de notre compréhension et comblés par l’éveil, nous accédons à des états spéciaux, atteignons la vérité, purifions l’esprit et manifestons un zèle sans limites, nous errons toujours dans ces sphères lointaines que seul l’intellect peut pénétrer et nous aurons perdu le chemin dynamique qui permet de sortir le corps.
I wrote this a few years ago:
Only ignorant non monks may say: Sawaki is moving the brush.
No brush, no Sawaki. Just the endless activity of suchness.
As your eyes meets the kakejiku, it comes to life and light.
As your eyes meet the paper, they move the original brush.
You sit and everything sits with you.
What is real? We haven't the faintest idea. In "no idea" is reality.
No big deal. No monk or non monk.
What is the religion of trees? the prayer of twigs?*
Water jumps in frogs, stone women make love at dawn,
your eye, Shobogenzo, turns the whole universe *like a flower.