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May 28, 2016 @ 10:53 pm

May 2016 SIT-A-LONG with Jundo: Engaged Patience

We continue a series of talks on the Buddhist "Paramitas" (Virtues) which aid in our engaged and charitable work in the world. Today ... PATIENCE ...

We can be diligent and energetic in our efforts, seeking a good outcome ... yet not be attached to the desired outcome.
We can do what can be done, trying for good results ... yet filled with patience at the slow progress.
We can try for success ... yet also know equanimity with regard to success or failure.

Further reading and discussion for this talk are available on the Treeleaf forum:
SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: ENGAGED PATIENCE »

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May 8, 2016 @ 11:04 am

April 2016 Zazenkai Talk (TREELEAF’S 10th ANNIVERSARY!)

TODAY'S SITTING MARKS OUR CELEBRATION OF TREELEAF'S 10th ANNIVERSARY!

Shōbōgenzō Ikka-no-myōju by Master Dogen
One Bright Pearl

In [this] sahā world, in the great kingdom of Song [China, there lived] Great Master [Gensha]. One day [while still a young monk, a student of Master Seppo], in order to explore widely the surrounding districts, he leaves the mountain, carrying a [traveling] bag. But as he does so, he stubs his toe on a stone. Bleeding and in great pain, [Gensha] all at once seriously reflects as follows: “[They say] this body is not real existence. Where does the pain come from?” He thereupon returns to Seppō. Seppō asks him, “What is it, [tough guy]?” Gensha says, “In the end I just cannot be deceived by others.” Seppō, loving these words very much, says, “Is there anyone who does not have these words [inside them]? [But] is there anyone who can speak these words?” Seppō asks further, “Why do you not go exploring?” [Gensha] says, “Bodhidharma did not come to the Eastern Lands [of China]; the Second Patriarch did not go to the Western Heavens [of India].” Seppō praised this very much.

Further reading and discussion for this talk are available on the Treeleaf forum:
April 1st-2nd, 2016 - OUR MONTHLY 4-hour ZAZENKAI for TREELEAF'S 10th ANNIVERSARY! »

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May 8, 2016 @ 7:43 am

May 2016 Zazenkai Talk (Heshang Moheyan (和尚摩訶衍))

Today's Talk is dedicated to a fellow who historically got a bad rap. It is also shows how much our Shikantaza Zazen ways resonate with the Teachings of the ancient Masters in the earliest days of Zen ...

Heshang Moheyan (和尚摩訶衍)) was a late 8th century Chan monk (Chan is the Chinese name for Zen). He became famous for representing Chan in the so called "Council of Lhasa," a debate held in Tibet between adherents of the Indian teachings of "gradual enlightenment" and the Chinese teachings of "sudden enlightenment," which according to tradition was won by the "gradual teachings", causing Moheyan and all Chan Teachings to be expelled from Tibet. However, recent research has disclosed that the story is not so simple, and may represent a rewriting of history and what actually happened by those later advocating the esoteric teachings we now know as Tibetan Buddhism. It is now known that Moheyan and Chan Teachings were very influential and widely accepted in long ago Tibet for a long time before they were purged.

Further reading and discussion for this talk are available on the Treeleaf forum:
May 6th-7th, 2016 - OUR MONTHLY 4-hour ZAZENKAI! »

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March 28, 2016 @ 9:57 am

March 2016 SIT-A-LONG with Jundo: Engaged Ethics (& Zenathon for Treeleaf’s 10th Anniversary)

First, I would like to point everyone to our upcoming ZENATHON, for 10 days starting April 1st (March 31 in some places) through April 10th, marking the 10th Anniversary of Treeleaf Sangha. Sangha members and friends will be sitting somewhere in the world, in all time zones, to mark the event. We are also very fortunate to be able to celebrate together with the traditional day marking Buddha's Birthday in Japan, April 8th (details on that soon). In our Community, we have people sitting all over, in all times, dropping away all thought of "here and there". If you are available to sit with us, here is information on how you can note your times to sit (or if your schedule requires, you can also just pull up a Zafu when you can).

... And on to today's topic:

As part of our focus on Treeleaf's Engaged and Charitable Projects Center, I have been looking at how the traditional Virtues (Paramitas) of a Bodhisattva aid and guide us in our volunteer, charitable and socially engaged activities in the world. This time, we look at how ethics and the Precepts are a vital foundation for our activities.

Truly, they open the heart. An appreciation of the importance of life, of not taking what has not been given, of not using others, of honesty and like virtues all help us along.

Further reading and discussion for this talk are available on the Treeleaf forum:
SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: Engaged Ethics (& Zenathon for Treeleaf's 10th Anniversary) »

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March 27, 2016 @ 12:30 pm

March 2016 Zazenkai Talk (Shobogenzo - Kokū (Space - 虚空))

Because “this place is where something ineffable exists,” it is through the realization of these words that Buddhist patriarchs are caused to be. And because the realization of these words of Buddhist patriarchs passes naturally from rightful successor to rightful successor, the skin, flesh, bones, and marrow, realized as “a whole body,” are “hanging in space.” This space is beyond such categories as the twenty kinds of space [such as inside, outside, over, below, etc.]. In general, how could space be limited to only twenty kinds of space. There are eighty-four thousand kinds of space, and there may be countless more besides.

Further reading and discussion for this talk are available on the Treeleaf forum:
March 4th-5th, 2016 - OUR MONTHLY 4-hour ZAZENKAI! »

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February 15, 2016 @ 5:59 pm

February 2016 SIT-A-LONG with Jundo: GIVING, GENEROSITY and ENGAGEMENT

As one of a series of talks putting the spotlight on Treeleaf's ENGAGED & CHARITABLE PROJECTS CENTER, I would like to speak of the traditional Buddhist Paramita (Virtue) of Dana ... Generosity, Charity, Giving.

To give and be charitable takes us out of our selfish concerns for our own well-being alone. There are hungry mouths to feed in this world, and we can all do something. There are none of us so impoverished or wanting that we cannot give something to someone in need ... money, food, kindness, comfort, encouragement, teachings of wisdom ... especially for so many of us in relatively wealthy Western society.

However, there is also something special about giving from a Zen Buddhist point of view ... namely, that even as we give, there is nothing in need of giving or lacking ... there is truly no giver, receiver or gift ... nothing in need of giving, no giver or hungry mouths to feed ... yet we give nonetheless, for there are hungry mouths to feed! All True At Once, As One.

Perhaps we might say that, transcending giver-receiver-gift, only the naked generosity remains which holds and sweeps in all of us in the world's embrace. As you breathe every breath of air, bite a sweet apple and drink the refreshing water that the earth provides, as the sunlight shines down, know all this as just the world's generosity. We must pay it back.

Further reading and discussion for this talk are available on the Treeleaf forum:
SIT-A-LONG with Jundo: GIVING, GENEROSITY and ENGAGEMENT »

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February 11, 2016 @ 10:27 pm

February 2016 Zazenkai Talk (SPECIAL “NEHAN-E” 4-hour ZAZENKAI!)

WELCOME to our Memorial & Celebration of NEHAN-E, (Pari-Nirvana) the traditional day to mark the historical Buddha's death and passing from this visible world. This is also a day for each of us to remember in our homes those family and friends who have gone before. As well, we particularly mark the passing of Nishijima Gudo Wafu and Rempo Niwa Zenji ...

Further reading and discussion for this talk are available on the Treeleaf forum:
February 6th, 2016 - SPECIAL "NEHAN-E" 4-hour ZAZENKAI! »

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January 23, 2016 @ 2:22 pm

January 2016 SIT-A-LONG with Jundo: TOTALLY ENGAGED

As this is just the New Year, it is a good time to stir the pot at Treeleaf's ENGAGED & CHARITABLE PROJECTS CENTER ...

We want to activate the place, and believe that it should be front and center in our Practice right with Zazen ... in fact, charity and volunteer activities --are-- Zazen "off the cushion."

Every couple of weeks or so, we will be presenting projects that anybody can ... should ... dig into, and we would like to make this a Community Team Effort! There will be many options available, something for anybody, even folks who have mobility or other health issues. There are always ways to reach out wherever you find yourself, always someone who you can help a bit no matter how much you are struggling in your own life (maybe just pick up a phone or computer and reach out to someone else who is also housebound, for example).

Further reading and discussion for this talk are available on the Treeleaf forum:
SIT-A-LONG with Jundo: TOTALLY ENGAGED »

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January 19, 2016 @ 10:36 pm

January 2016 Zazenkai Talk (Welcome to the New Year)

To open this New Year, our reading will be the prologue to Master Dogen's Bendowa (On the Endeavor of the Way, Kaz Tanahashi Translation), written in 1231, one of the first pieces on Zen Practice written by Master Dogen following his return to Japan from China:
www.lionsroar.com/just-wholeheartedly-sit

Further reading and discussion for this talk are available on the Treeleaf forum:
January 1st-2nd, 2016 - OUR MONTHLY 4-hour ZAZENKAI! WELCOME THE NEW YEAR! »

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December 2, 2015 @ 10:01 pm

SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: Rohatsu, Retreat and Family

This week we celebrate ROHATSU, remembering the Enlightenment of the Buddha who sat under the Bodhi Tree, realizing the end of his long search as he saw the light of the Morning Star. If you cannot travel to a Rohatsu Retreat, we invite you to sit in "retreat" just where you are, with our Treeleaf Sangha Annual 'ALWAYS AT HOME' Two Day 'ALL ONLINE' ROHATSU RETREAT, to be live netcast this coming Saturday and Sunday (or available for sitting any later time when you can arrange).

The two days will include Zazen sitting, Kinhin, Chanting, Zazen sitting, Oryoki, Zazen sitting, Bowing, Talks, 'Samu' Work Practice, and More Zazen Sitting, as in any Soto Zen Retreat, all in celebration of the Buddha's days of Zazen and Enlightenment. Folks will be sitting with us from places as far and wide as Sweden, Mexico, the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Japan, Indonesia, the Ukraine and other places ... all together as a Community, forgetting distance. The retreat is designed to be sat in any time zone around the world through a combination of 'live-live' and 'live though recorded' segments, and one may still join the Retreat and sit-a-long at ANY AND ALL TIME after, by the real time recorded version (no different from the original!). For further details, please have a look here.

Further reading and discussion for this talk are available on the Treeleaf forum:
SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: Rohatsu, Retreat and Family »

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November 11, 2015 @ 7:31 pm

November 2015 Zazenkai Talk (The Verse of Atonement, The Four Vows & Others)

For this talk, we will reflect on some of the Verses, Vows and Dedications we are heard to Chant around here for each Zazenkai and at other times.  For further reading on these and other Chants, I highly recommend "Living by Vow: A Practical Introduction to Eight Essential Zen Chants and Texts, by Shohaku Okumura, Wisdom Publications, 2012."

Further reading and discussion for this talk are available on the Treeleaf forum:
November 6th-7th, 2015 - OUR MONTHLY 4-hour ZAZENKAI! »

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October 3, 2015 @ 1:58 pm

October 2015 Zazenkai Dharma Talk (Wild Ways of the Precepts in Japan)

Reading: "Wild Ways of the Precepts in Japan"

It is not known if the precepts in sixteen articles resulted from Dogen’s own innovation or if he borrowed this group from another source. [Dogen, in a writing describing the ordination ceremony for his priests] states that the ordination ceremony described therein is exactly the same as the one conducted by [Dogen's Teacher in China] Ju-ching in 1225 when he administered the precepts to Dogen. The reliability of that assertion, however, seems doubtful. [from "Dogen and the Precepts" by Prof. Steven Heine]

Further reading and discussion for this talk are available on the Treeleaf forum:
October 2nd-3rd, 2015 - OUR MONTHLY 4-hour ZAZENKAI! »

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September 30, 2015 @ 5:34 pm

September 2015 Talk - Make Room for the Misfits!

When SweepingZen asked for a talk on International Blasphemy Rights Day (September 30th), I joked that I do that with most of my posts!

A nice thing about Buddhists is that we rarely kill, burn at the stake or imprison our critics, dissenters, heretics and the doctrinally different (although we have our scattered extremists too, the same as any religion). We are pretty non-violent, but even we aren’t totally immune from forbidding and punishing blasphemy and unwelcome voices.

Keep room in Zen Buddhism for the misfits, square pegs, tradition breakers and “original non-thinkers” on the edges. Learn to distinguish the con artists, shysters, abusers and predators from those who have simply walked their own path, attended the “monastery of hard knocks”, are doing something good even if not how you would do it. Having “set standards” and “required training paths” is useful and generally necessary for helping to assure substance, experience, dedication and ethics in our teachers. Someone can do a lot of harm when falling down in those things, like an untrained doctor or a drunken lawyer. However, keep room for exceptions and “special cases” too. Look at who the priest has become, not so much only how she or he got there.

Further reading and discussion for this talk are available on the Treeleaf forum:
INTERNATIONAL BLASPHEMY DAY: Make Room for the Misfits! »

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September 8, 2015 @ 8:40 pm

September 2015 Zazenkai Dharma Talk (Ango Season Begins)

What is Ango in our day and time, for householders in the modern West? Is it Ango as the Buddha, Dogen and all the Ancestors Practiced?

The meaning of the Japanese word Ango [安居] (Skt : varsha or varshika; Pali: vassa ) is “tranquil dwelling”. The origin is the “rainy-season retreat” , the period when Buddhist monks in India stopped their travels and outdoor activities for the duration of the rainy season and gathered at some sheltered location to devote themselves to Practice, study and discipline. One practical reason was because the heavy rainfall made traveling and outdoor activities impractical. But it was also a time when the individual monks in Buddha’s time, spending most of the year scattered here and there in small groups or individually, could gather and unite as a community and Practice together. During the rainy season in India, monks traditionally dwelt in a cave or a monastery for three months—from the sixteenth day of the fourth month to the fifteenth day of the seventh month. During this period the monks learned the Buddha's teachings, engaged in meditation and other practices, and repented their harmful behavior and weaknesses. The tradition is said to have begun during the time of Shakyamuni, was brought to China, and in Japan the three-month retreat was first observed in 683. Now it comes to us.

Further reading and discussion for this talk are available on the Treeleaf forum:

September 4th-5th, 2015 - OUR MONTHLY 4-hour ZAZENKAI! ANGO SEASON BEGINS! »

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September 1, 2015 @ 7:27 pm

August 2015 Talk - Why Zen Folks Fail - Part 6

We continue with Why Zen Students Fail!

One reason is because they trust the Zen Teachers too much sometimes.

Another reason is because they trust their Teacher not enough sometimes.

Sometimes they are blind to a Teacher's flaws, victims of excess devotion, faith and obedience (yes, it sometimes happens, as described HERE)

Sometimes students expect a Zen Teacher to be flawless, saintly and superhuman, and run away at the first sign of humanity.

Students should realize that the teachers are really just mentors, "friends on the way", folks who have been around the block, guides who have walked the path and can help point out the generally good directions and the dangers and quicksand. Learn from the voice of experience and the wise advice, but in the end, each student must do their own walking.

In all cases, the student should learn to see through the Teacher to the Teaching, seeing this messy world and the Pure Land as One.

Further reading and discussion for this talk are available on the Treeleaf forum:

SIT-A-LONG with Jundo: Why Zen Folks FAIL!! (6) - Trusting the Teacher »

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August 11, 2015 @ 10:27 am

August 2015 Zazenkai Dharma Talk

Today's Talk:

Theory of Zazen for Three Personality Types
Sankon-Zazen-Setsu by Keizan Zenji
(translation by YASUDA & ANZAN, with some adjustments from Masunaga and Kennett)

In traditional Buddhist descriptions, there the three levels of capacity that Buddhist practitioners exhibit (sankon 三根; Sk. trīṇi indriyāṇi): dull (donkon 鈍根), middling (chūkon 中根; Sk. madhya indriya), and sharp (rikon 利根; Sk. tīskṣṇa indriya) capacities. These are three different capacities that Buddhist practitioners exhibit.

Dogenologist & Historian Carl Bielefeldt comments (Dogen’s Manuals of Zen Meditation, footnote 33 on p.152): Here [in the “Theory of Zazen for Three Personality Types”] Keizan distinguishes three levels in the understanding of zazen (corresponding to the traditional Buddhist disciplines): the lowest emphasizes the ethical character of the practice; the middling, the psychological character; the highest, the philosophical. The second, he describes as ―abandoning the myriad affairs and halting the various involvements, ‖ making unflagging effort to concentrate on breathing or consider a koan, until one has gotten clear about the truth. (In the highest zazen, of course, this truth is already quite clear.) In his influential Zazen yojinki as well – though [Keizan] repeats the Fukan zazen gi passage on nonthinking—Keizan recommends the practice of kanna [Koan phrase centered Zazen] as an antidote to mental agitation in zazen (ibid. 497b).

Further reading for this talk is available in the Zazenkai forum thread:

August 2015 Zazenkai Forum Thread »

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July 22, 2015 @ 8:48 pm

July 2015 Talk - Why Zen Folks Fail - Part 5

So many Zen students think that the longer they sit the better. They believe 10 years surpasses 10 months or 10 days, which must be better than 10 hours, which is better than 10 minutes or seconds. They treat Zazen like a taxi meter or points to rack up, the more they sit the closer they are to the goal. They equate more and more sitting with going deeper and deeper, or becoming more and more peaceful, or more and more "Buddha-like", or more and more "enlightened".

However, Zazen only truly hits the mark when all measure of time and score, goals and attainment are dropped away. Only then does a moment of sitting contain all time, only then does one realize the destination ever present. Zazen is thus very unlike many forms of meditation (not to mention very unlike our usual clock watching, tally counting, comparing and measuring, goal oriented attitude toward the rest of our busy lives) in which deeper and deeper attainments, and greater and greater achievements, add up with time. In Zazen, one attains the deepest attainment and the greatest achievement, namely, the timeless which is right in each tick of the clock, the goal ever reached again and again in each passing mile on the road across town. But one only realizes so when one sits as the still and round face of the clock which holds all time as the hands make their circles ...

Further reading and discussion for this talk are available on the Treeleaf forum:

SIT-A-LONG with Jundo: Why Zen Folks FAIL!! (5) - Watching The Clock Rackin Up Points »

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July 4, 2015 @ 10:44 pm

July 2015 Zazenkai Dharma Talk

FOR TODAY's TALK: Soto Zen Teacher Kokyo Henkel explains the "basics" of Mirror Awareness very nicely …

The true nature of mind is mirror-like awareness, always just reflecting what’s happening, whether we notice this or not. It never shuts off or stops functioning, even when we’re completely engrossed in conceptual thinking or strong emotions. A mirror just receives whatever object is placed before it, neutrally and naturally. It has no opinions about the object. The mirror doesn’t prefer red over blue, it doesn’t discriminate among these things, and yet it doesn’t block them out, reject them, or alter them in any way. It is just open receptivity, without adding any commentary. … All these qualities of the mirror are also qualities of the nature of mind, the naturally present open awareness of Buddha-Nature.

… During zazen we can open to this receptive mirror awareness. If we try to look directly at it, try to grasp the mirror, we won’t be able to; we will only get to see our ideas of it reflected in it. Therefore the practice is, rather than trying to see the mirror, simply to be the mirror. If we try to be the mirror and also try to figure out what the mirror is, then such figuring is simply reflections on the mirror. It seems quite challenging to just reflect like a mirror, since we are so accustomed to discriminating, preferring, assessing, and getting caught up in the objects placed before us. Though it is challenging, it is also very simple, almost too simple for us to accept. http://sweepingzen.com/mirror-awareness-the-true-host

Further reading for this talk is available in the Zazenkai forum thread:

July 2015 Zazenkai Forum Thread »

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June 27, 2015 @ 10:57 pm

June 2015 Talk - Why Zen Folks Fail - Part 4

Last time in this series on "Why Zen Folks FAIL!", we looked at NOT KNOWING HOW NOT TO CHASE! Folks don't know how to be totally still. This time, the reason "Zen Folks FAIL!" is because of complacently NOT KNOWING HOW TO CHASE! Folks don't know how to keep climbing and moving!

Saying about this life and world that "there is nothing in need of change" --does not-- mean "there is nothing in need of change". Simply because all things are "perfectly complete, just as they are", that --does not-- mean that all things are "perfectly complete, just as they are". Saying so is only from one beautiful perspective. In fact, to realize profoundly that "there is nothing in need of change", we must change our human tendencies of excess desire, anger, jealously and other divisive thoughts of ignorance. There is a lot about us in need of change in order to realize that nothing was ever in need of change from the first, not a drop.

Further reading and discussion for this talk are available on the Treeleaf forum:

SIT-A-LONG with Jundo: Why Zen Folks FAIL!! (4) - NOT CHASING ENOUGH! »

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June 20, 2015 @ 1:06 pm

June 2015 Talk - Why Zen Folks Fail - Part 3

Many forms of Buddhist meditation center on seeking ... seeking benefits ranging from mystical states and insights, to simple relaxation and good health effects. These are great Practices, yet also feed the tendency so common to folks in modern, consumer societies to not know how to be truly still, content and whole ... for people in the West keep running after more, bigger, better, brighter. We want to be more focused, more peaceful, more enlightened ... We truly are hamsters on treadmills, and we do not know how to stop and turn spinning wheels into Enso!

Even many of the students and Teachers of so-called "Just Sitting" Zazen will bring a subtle greed into their sitting ... subtly and secretly demanding some profit and returns ... which robs the sitting of its greatest power. Oh, sure, they may become more peaceful, relaxed, accepting in life ... and that's something! But they are not truly "just sitting" in stillness ... rather, they are still "just demanding" even if in the backs of their minds. Modern, industrial people, it seems, find it so hard to just sit and be, whole and complete!

Further reading and discussion for this talk are available on the Treeleaf forum:

SIT-A-LONG with Jundo: Why Zen Folks FAIL!! (3) - CHASING »

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June 7, 2015 @ 9:51 am

June 2015 Zazenkai Dharma Talk

TODAY's TALK: Jijuyu-zanmai (The Self-Fulfilliing Samadhi / The still abiding taste of the self in self-fulfillment) by Menzan Zuiho Osho

Menzan Zuihō (面山瑞方, 1683-1769) was a Japanese Sōtō Zen scholar and abbot of the Zenjo-ji and Kuin-ji temples active during the Tokugawa era. Menzan's scholarship was part of the Tokugawa movement of returning to original historical sources to revitalize Zen (復古. "fukko" - "return to the old"), especially the works of Dōgen Zenji. Before Menzan the works of Dōgen were not widely studied or put into practice, and he helped revitalize the Sōtō school by analyzing and building on Dogen's writings. Menzan used Dōgen to promote a reform of the Sōtō sect, which included reforming the monastic code and meditation practice. Due to Menzan's efforts, Dōgen studies now occupies a central position in Sōtō Zen thought.Menzan was also involved in lecturing to the public and teaching laymen and laywomen meditation practice. One of his most famous works, the Buddha Samadhi (Jijuyu Zanmai) is addressed to laypeople and focuses on the teachings of Dōgen.

The reading for this talk is available in the Zazenkai forum thread.

June 2015 Zazenkai Forum Thread »

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May 31, 2015 @ 9:47 pm

May 2015 Talk - Why Zen Folks Fail - Part 2

People fail at Zen because they think there is a place to fail. But in fact, THERE IS NO PLACE TO FAIL!

People fail at Zen because they think there is -no- place to fail. In fact, THERE ARE ENDLESS PLACES TO FAIL!

The biggest place to fail is to believe that there either is or is not places to fail. Better said, the trap is the failure to know that ONE CAN FAIL YET NOT FAIL AT ONCE!

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May 21, 2015 @ 9:57 pm

May 2015 Talk - Why Zen Folks Fail - Part I

Zen folks fail because we're IGNORANT, DELUDED sentient beings, of course! But more specifically, because of several common mistakes and misguided assumptions among many Zen students new and old (and by so-called Zen Teachers too).

This is the first of a NEW VIDEO/AUDIO PODCAST SERIES and, over the coming weeks, I will look at many of the reasons that Zen students, Teachers, Zen groups and Buddhism in general are EPICALLY FAILING in the West (and why they are also doing quite well in so many ways, thank you!).

Join the discussion for this episode at the Treeleaf.org forum.

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May 5, 2015 @ 8:31 pm

May 2015 Zazenkai Dharma Talk

Buddhism [1] explains why sorrows exist in the world, and explains in reasonable, cogent, realistic ways (beyond some rather more doubtful and fanciful explanations it also offers), [2] provides a vision which offers peace and compassion amid, and transcendence of, all human suffering, and, simultaneously [3] offers a workable path toward the alleviation of such suffering and ugliness in this world in ways vitally necessary for our species' future.

If Buddhism failed in those three hard tasks, I don't think it would have much value. Fortunately, I believe, it does not fail in those tasks. Thus, I can say that this talk is as positive and optimistic in tone as it is sad and broken hearted. It is not merely one or the other.

May 2015 Zazenkai Forum Thread

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August 30, 2013 @ 10:45 pm

SIT-A-LONG with Jundo: gratitude & Great Gratitude

This "Buddha quote", however nice it sounds, is not something the Buddha likely said at all (turns out to be from the cheery 70's writer on love, Leo Buscaglia). Oh, the Buddha certainly taught us to be grateful for this precious life, but also to be Grateful (Big "G") in a way that puts down the balance sheet and any need even to hunt for the "silver lining". 

What is the difference between gratitude and Great Gratitude seen in a Buddha's Eye? 

Daido Loori once recommended this elegant, simple practice on daily gratitude. I will second the recommendation:

Expressing gratitude is transformative, just as transformative as expressing complaint. Imagine an experiment involving two people. One is asked to spend ten minutes each morning and evening expressing gratitude (there is always something to be grateful for), while the other is asked to spend the same amount of time practicing complaining (there is, after all, always something to complain about). One of the subjects is saying things like, "I hate my job. I can't stand this apartment. Why can't I make enough money? My spouse doesn't get along with me. That dog next door never stops barking and I just can't stand this neighborhood." The other is saying things like, "I'm really grateful for the opportunity to work; there are so many people these days who can't even find a job. And I'm sure grateful for my health. What a gorgeous day; I really like this fall breeze." They do this experiment for a year. Guaranteed, at the end of that year the person practicing complaining will have deeply reaffirmed all his negative "stuff" rather than having let it go, while the one practicing gratitude will be a very grateful person. . . Expressing gratitude can, indeed, change our way of seeing ourselves and the world.

This is a lovely, transformative practice. Yet, Daido would also remind us, there is a greater, transcendent, boundless Gratitude in the Buddha's Teachings that does not even need the subtle "see the bright side" "find the positive to counter the negative" or "personal pay-off of what's ultimately nice for 'me'" in the above sense of ordinary gratitude. Rather, there's an even Greater "Non-Pay-off" than that! A Jewel so precious, it shines as both earthly jewels and life's thrown bricks and stones in our shoe.

Ordinary human gratitude is what we are encouraged to feel in the above exercise, and it is fine. In fact, it is wise, healthy and important. Yet there is a "Buddha's Gratitude" which is not dependent on what we "like" that momentarily pleases the selfish-self, that is not based simply on "looking out for the good side" or experiencing the "gorgeous" day. This Emptiness that is all Fullness -is- both the glass "half full" and "half empty!"

A Buddha's Gratitude is Vast and Unlimited ... a Gratitude both for that which we love and that which we may not, a Treasure beyond yet holding mere "silver linings" "brass rings" and "lumps of coal". It is a Peace and Wholeness which transcends "pro vs. con", a Beauty which sees even the ugly times as "gorgeous day". We are grateful for life, for death, for health, for sickness .. each and all as Sacred. It is a Gratitude in the face of a cancer diagnosis, Gratitude that dances all disappointments, a Gratitude which comfortably holds even the tragedy of Syria or any other bloody field (a Gratitude that is Grateful, even as we seek to stop such tragedies in the world). 

This last point is vital too, for while such is a Gratitude ever Grateful for this world of both peace and war, health and disease, nonetheless we may seek for peace, fight the disease. While Grateful for this garden of both flowers and weeds, each a Jewel in Indra's Net, we may seek to water the flowers and pluck the weeds we can. 

Yes, it is a lovely Practice to not complain, and to learn to see the "bright side" of life's ups and downs. But I also recommend to sit Zazen, sit as Gratitude sitting, sit as this Light which holds light and dark and all shades in between.

Yes, please practice daily the expressing of gratitude, and complain less and see the "negatives" less. Simultaneously, please let us work to make this world nicer, more peaceful, to end the wars, feed the hungry, nurse the sick. Yet let us also Sit a Buddha's Gratitude for ALL OF IT. 

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