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January 29, 2012 @ 11:51 pm

SIT-A-LONG with Taigu: Fukanzazengi 4

Upon investigation, the truth is all around: how could it rely on practice and experience? The vehicle of the fundamental exists of itself, what is the point of trying?

Alors que nous la recherchons, la voie-vérité pénètre originellement toutes choses.Comment dépendrait-elle de la pratique et de la réalisation ? Le véhicule de la Loi existe de lui-même, a quoi bon y consacrer tant d’efforts ?

Please visit the forum thread here!

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January 27, 2012 @ 10:57 pm

SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: Dogen - A Love Supreme

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Really gettin' DOGEN'S WILD SOUND is a lot like gettin' THIS WILD SOUND ...

(Please give a listen, and keep it playing while you read the rest of this post)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Ds-sc_PJck&feature=player_embedded

I've described Dogen as a JHANA JAZZ MAN-POET, riffing and free expressing-reexpressing-bending-straightening-unbinding-releasing the 'standard tunes' of the Sutras and Koans. The untrained ear can't make head or tail of it, complex rhythms, notes flying, wild tempo ...

Above is what John Coltrane did-undid-diddled-redid, for example, with "MY FAVORITE THINGS", that really "squaresville" (though lovely in its own way) tune that you may recall being chirped by Julie Andrews in THE SOUND OF MUSIC (a great story)! For that reason, a familiarity with the original 'standards' of the American songbook helps a lot in getting where Coltrane was coming from and going to here. Likewise, a good grounding in traditional Buddhist, Mahayana and Zen philosophy and perspectives is vital to getting what Dogen is up to. But Dogen, Master of the WordJazz expression of the Wordless, then takes off bending and re-enlivening those "standard tunes" in ways felt in the skin, flesh, bones, and marrow. Dogen, for example, frequently re-wild-ed and bent up passages from the already wild and bent Lotus Sutra into something even more bent-iferous and wild-acios!   Sometimes with Dogen, one can make out clearly the "original melody" he is working with ... a Sutra passage, a Poem, an Old Koan ... and sometimes barely so, for it is not always the "point" he is trying to make through reasoned words, but "the sound, man, the feeling of the music". Dogen and Coltrane make their own musical expression the same but different from the 'standards' that the playful playing is playing upon ... expressing Timeless Old Truths in ways never expressed before ... making Timeless New Truths in the process ... but one also should not forget that that "standard" tune is in there too, and keeps popping up as the theme

The Shobogenzo, for example, is a rather thick and thorny maze to most readers. But once Dogen's basic ways of expression are understood, one can read the entirety with a bit more ease ... though never easy, mind you, as Dogen (like Coltrane) may often have sometimes let the notes and feeling lead him where they would, and may not have been always himself quite sure where the music was taking him -- or what he himself "meant"! Nonetheless, each certainly knew what he "meant" cause of the meaning of the feelings felt!

Below is a passage I read in today's talk from Shobogenzo Bussho, where Dogen is jumping off from some basic Buddhist and Mahayana Teachings and standard Phrases to express the nature of Buddha nature. As part of the Soto Zen Text Project, Prof. Carl Bielefeldt offers some background on a few of these old phrases:

“Sentient beings” (ujō 有情); “the multitude of beings” (gunjō 群生); “multitude of types” (gunrui 群類) [are each terms in Mahayana Buddhism] regularly used as synonyms for “living beings.”

“Initial being” (shi’u 始有); “original being” (hon’u 本有); “marvelous being” (myō’u 妙有); “conditioned being” (en’u 縁有); “deluded being” (mō’u 妄有) [are a] series of terms expressing modes of existence discussed in Buddhist thought. The first, “initial being,” while not itself particularly common, is here contrasted with the familiar “original being,” a term used to express the fundamental reality from which the phenomenal world emerges. The expression “marvelous being” is probably best known in the phrase “true emptiness and marvelous being” (shinkū myō’u 眞空妙有), where it expresses the ultimate emptiness of phenomena. The term “conditioned being” suggests that which exists as a result of conditions — i.e., the conditioned dharmas of dependent origination (engi 縁起; pratīya-samutpāda); “deluded being” suggests that which exists as a result of deluded thoughts — i.e., the false objects of our misguided discrimination (funbetsu 分別; vikalpa).

“Mind and object, nature and attribute” (shin kyō shō sō 心境性相): Two standard pairs in Buddhist thought: the mind, or thought (citta), and the objects of thought or of the senses (viṣaya, ālambana); and the nature, or essence (svabhāva), of a thing, and its attributes, or characteristics (lakṣana).

“A hundred pieces” (hyaku zassui 百雜碎): A common [Zen] idiom for the multiplicity of phenomena.

“One strip of iron” (ichijō tetsu 一條鐵): A common [Zen] idiom for the unity of phenomena, as in the saying, “one strip of iron for ten thousand li (wanli yitiao tie 萬里一條鐵).

“Raising a fist” (nen kentō 拈拳頭): The raising of the fist is a common [Zen] gesture expressing what is beyond language and discrimination.

And here is how Dogen plays jumping off from such a foundation ... expressing the profound unity and intimacy of we individual, sometimes deluded Being(s) and All Being and Buddha nature ...

The Buddha Śākyamuni said [in the Mahā-parinirvāṇa-sūtra], “All living beings in their entirety have the buddha nature. The tathāgata always abides, without any change.” ...

What is the essential point of the World Honored One’s [the Buddha's] saying, “All living beings in their entirety have the buddha nature”? ... One speaks of “living beings,” or “sentient beings,” or “the multitude of beings,” or “the multitude of types.” The phrase “entirety of being” refers to “living beings,” “the multitude of beings.” That is, the “entirety of being” is the buddha nature; “one entirety” of the “entirety of being” is called “living beings.” At this very moment, the interior and exterior of living beings is the “entirety of being” of the buddha nature. ...

We should realize that the “being” that is here made the “entirety of being” by the buddha nature is not the being of being and non-being. The “entirety of being” is the word of the buddha, the tongue of the buddha, the eyes of the buddhas and ancestors, the nose of the patch-robed monk. Furthermore, the term “entirety of being” is not initial being, not original being, not marvelous being; how much less is it conditioned being or deluded being. ...

... The buddha nature is always the “entirety of being”; for the “entirety of being” is the buddha nature. The “entirety of being” is not “a hundred pieces”; the “entirety of being” is not “one strip of iron.” Since it is “raising a fist,” it is not large or small. Given that we are calling it “buddha nature,” it should not be of equal stature with the nobles; it should not be made of equal stature with the buddha nature.

A Love Supreme!

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

Please visit the forum thread here!

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January 21, 2012 @ 11:51 pm

SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: Dogen is SO OLD!

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This week, Japanese Lineages of Soto Zen celebrate the 811th BIRTHDAY OF MASTER DOGEN! YEA! YIPPEE!

But in some ways, MASTER DOGEN IS VERY OLD AND OUT OF DATE!

Oh, don't misunderstand! So many of Dogen's Teachings are FOR ALL TIMES AND ALL PLACES. In fact, his vision of Time and Timelessness, BEING-TIME, is ALL TIME IN EVERY TIME, THIS TIME AS TOTALLY THIS TIME AND THAT TIME, ITS OWN TIMELY TIME, EACH TIME OR HALF TIME JUST A WHOLE TIME, A WORMHOLE-TIME, A RABBIT HOLE TIME ...THE WHOLE HOLY TIME. Dogen once-upon-a-time wrote this ...

Do not think that time merely flies away. Do not see flying away as the only function of time. If time merely flies away, you would be separated from time. The reason you do not clearly understand the time-being is that you think of time only as passing. In essence, all things in the entire world are linked with one another as moments. Because all moments are the time-being, they are your time-being. The time-being has the quality of flowing. So-called today flows into tomorrow, today flows into yesterday, yesterday flows into today. And today flows into today, tomorrow flows into tomorrow.

In my way of reading the old boy, DOGEN IS A RIFFING JHANA JAZZ MAN-POET, free expressing-bending-unbinding-reexpressing-releasing the 'standard tunes' of the Sutras and Koans, making time and keeping time in syncopation of time ...

Zen master Guixing of She Prefecture ... taught the assembly:

For the time being mind arrives, but words do not.

For the time being words arrive, but mind does not.

For the time being both mind and words arrive.

For the time being neither mind nor words arrive.

Both mind and words are the time-being. Both arriving and not-arriving

are the time-being. When the moment of arriving has not appeared, the moment

of not-arriving is here. Mind is a donkey, words are a horse.

Having-already-arrived is words and not-having-left is mind. Arriving is not

"coming," not-arriving is not "not yet."

That's Dogen-Time, Man! Digg It!

But sometimes Dogen is JUST A MAN OF HIS CULTURE AND TIMES, preaching about things with limited relevance today. You can take Dogen out of ancient samurai Japan, but you cannot take the ancient Japanese samurai out of Dogen. I find him sometimes obsessive, sometimes grumpy, sometimes naive and ill informed, sometimes perhaps downright wrong in his advice then and now (as in this guidance to a prospective monk on leaving his old infirm mother to fend for herself)

A monk inquired,

“My aged mother is still alive. I am her only son. She lives solely by my support. Her love for me is especially deep and my desire to fulfill my filial duties is also deep. ... If I leave the world and live alone in a hermitage, my mother cannot expect to live for even one day.

Dogen instructed,

If you abandon your present life and enter the Buddha-Way, even if your mother dies of starvation, wouldn’t it be better for you to form a connection with the Way and for her to permit her only son to enter the Way? Although it is most difficult to cast aside filial love even over aeons and many lifetimes, if, having being born in a human body you give it up in this lifetime, when you encounter the Buddha’s teachings you will be truly fulfilling your debt of gratitude. Why wouldn’t this be in accordance with the Buddha’s will? It is said that if one child leaves home to become a monk, seven generations of parents will attain the Way.

http://global.sotozen-net.or.jp/common_ ... 03-14.html

Hmmm.

(Also, to the mention of "many lifetimes" I offer another agnostic 'Hmmm'.)

At other times, Dogen spoke out of Both Sides of His No-Sided Mouth, for example, sometimes saying this about the practice of lay folks (usually when writing to lay folks, as here in Bendowa)

Q: Can a layman practice this zazen or is it limited to priests?

A: The patriarchs have said that to understand Buddhism there should be no distinction between man and woman and between rich and poor. ... It has nothing to do with being either a priest or a lay man. Those who can discern excellence and inferiority will believe Buddhism naturally. Those who think that worldly tasks hinder Buddhism know only that there is no Buddhism in the world; they do not know that there is nothing that can be set apart as worldly tasks in Buddhism. ... All this tells us that worldly tasks do not hinder Buddhism. ... In the age of the Buddha, even misguided criminals were enlightened through his teachings. Under the patriarchs, even hunters and woodcutters were enlightened. And others will gain enlightenment. All you have to do is to receive instructions from a real teacher.

At other times, later times in his life, Dogen changed his tune. When speaking to his band of "all boy" monks in a 13th century monastery in the snowy boondocks, you can often hear him, in talks from this period, dealing with real "human to human" issues in the monastery. A lack of donors and hard economic times, rough food and no money to fix the roof. From what we know of the Eiheiji monks, a hodgepodge of refugees with various spiritual and personal backgrounds, Dogen's work was sometimes like herding cantankerous cats. You can hear in his voice the coach or commander, trying to keep up the sometimes flagging morale among his "men" ... men probably sometimes wondering why they'd left the comforts of home life and town to live and sit through the hard, cold, long, lonely winter days in a monastery in the middle of nowhere. No easy task, unless you preach a little "fire and brimstone". He would say such things as (in Shobogenzo Shukke)

Clearly know that the attainment of the way by all Buddhas and ancestors is only accomplished by leaving the household and receiving the precepts. ... None of those who have not left the household are Buddha ancestors

...

Breaking the precepts as a home leaver is better than keeping them as a layperson. You cannot experience emancipation by keeping the precepts as a layperon."

Hmmm.

If Dogen had not been driven out of town with his small band of monks, his ecumenical dreams a bit tarnished, forced to take retreat in the lonely cold and snow of remote Echizen Province ... would he have later become so seemingly closed to lay practice? I wonder. But, no matter ... for Dogen was a man of many moods and visions, and even Dogen is not the "final word" on what Soto Zen is or is not, and who can practice and who cannot, on what "home leaving" is or is not.

Dogen was a genius, beyond doubt. He was also a man with strong, personal views and opinions. Although someone may be truly gifted in some aspects, and have All the Answers ... be it spiritual or otherwise ... he/she need not have all the answers in every part of their life, having every answer to every life question. Mozart, a genius, was nonetheless not so on all matters and all music for all times. It is enough for me that Dogen, or any of the Buddhas and Ancestors, pierced to the heart of how this mind-self-universe works ... even if their particular social or scientific views, or views on daily conduct or how to treat one's mother ... can be taken with a grain of salt. One need not live in a 13th century Japanese monastery to find the heart of these Teachings!

Master Dogen was sometimes just a man of his place and time, with views not necessarily always right for our times.

(OH, AND PLEASE WELCOME OUR NEW BABY DAUGHTER, WHO JOINED ME FOR PART OF TODAY'S TALK! DOGEN DIDN'T PRACTICE 'PAPA ZEN' EITHER!)

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

Visit the forum thread here!

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January 15, 2012 @ 8:44 pm

Taigu - Rituals

Filed under Sit-A-Longs ·

January 14, 2012 @ 12:56 am

Sit-a-Long with Jundo: Zazen for Beginners (Part XXI)

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Folks often ask about how long, and how often, to sit.

What I am about to say may be controversial among some 'Zennies', seen as too "lightweight" by many ... easily misjudged and misunderstood as "breaking the rules" or "not sufficiently serious".

But our way is "goalless, non-attaining" ... the attaining of which is the Greatest Goal! A moment of sitting is a moment of Buddha realized! Certainly, sitting is not (when tasted as suchness) a matter limited by time or space, long or short in place or duration. In a moment of True Sitting, time is still ... even as it keeps flowing!

Our message around here is that "life is our temple". By this I mean that daily seated Zazen "on the Zafu" is indispensible and not to be skipped ... but also that ALL OF LIFE on and off the Zafu is "Zazen" in its wider meaning! Opportunities for 'Zazen' are sitting, standing, running, walking or flying through the air ... chanting sutras or changing diapers ... ALL ZAZEN when known as such. Nonetheless, Even though "all of life is Zazen" ... daily, seated Zazen is indispensible too and must be sat!

Yet ... on a purely practical level ... our Sangha members are generally very busy people, barely time to sit for 30 minutes even once ... let alone twice ... a day. I believe that many folks run from Zazen ... or do not sit daily ... because they simply do not have the time and/or patience. I would rather have folks sitting daily, and consistently, than not at all or only once in awhile.

Actually, there have been many views on the proper length of sitting during the history of Zen. Even Dogen, our Patriarch, while interpreting seated Zazen as sacred and 'Buddha realizing Buddha', also proposed all of life as sacred and 'Buddha realizing Buddha'. Dogen kept a monastic time schedule, with certain periods of Zazen fixed per day ... but, like all things in a monastery, each single sitting was seen as a timeless and complete ritual. In other words, even Dogen did not see Zazen as bound by time, or specifically recommend that one had to sit a set time each day, and saw each instant of sitting as an expression of All-Time and Being.

So then, why "15 minutes" ... and not "1 minute" or "5 minutes" or "5 hours" or "1 second"?

On a practical level, I think our busy working people can find 15 minutes a day, and such is just sufficient time to settle down the mind, release thoughts and emotions, and taste a period of timelessness. Any shorter is TOO SHORT to taste timelessness because ... like a storm or turbulent water, it takes a few minutes to clear and still a bit. In principle, sitting could be a moment or half a moment. However, a few minutes are usually required to allow for making the mental and physical transition from our busy day to this sacred moment ... in order to settle. After all, it takes a little bit of time to taste Timelessness!   Also, we needed to pick some number ... so might as well be that (like so many of our arbitrary "traditions" in Buddhism).

So, what is our "Official Recommendation" at Treeleaf Sangha?

A - Committing to sit at least one (1) sitting on the Zafu per day of 15 minutes (more if the person wants, but not required at all. IF YOU ARE NOW SITTING LONGER, AND COMFORTABLE WITH THAT, If SUCH FEELS RIGHT IN ONE'S LIFE ... KEEP AT IT! But, if you are struggling to maintain longer daily sittings, it is fine to shorten your sitting time. It is more important to be consistent in sitting daily for 15 minutes ... and taste Timelessness and Wholeness in one's sitting ... than to sit for 30 minutes but miss many days, or be lost in thoughts of goals and achievement). HOWEVER, sitting only 15 minutes 1 time daily must be combined with several daily moments of "Insta-Zazen!" © (as described in our last talk) ...

viewtopic.php?f=20&t=2908

B - Committing to at least one (1) longer sitting of 30 to 45 minutes once per week which, if possible, should be combined with joining in all of our weekly 90 minute Zazenkais.

C - If at all possible, committing to join in at least one (1) four hour Zazenkai at Treeleaf per month.

D - If at all possible, committing to attend one longer residential "Sesshin" per year of from 3 to 7 days.

Now, someone might ask too, "if each moment is all time and space, what is the purpose of an intensive Sesshin?" Well, I often say that, sometimes, we need to practice a bit long and hard, morning to night ... sitting and wrestling with 'me, my self and I' ... all to attain Nothing to Attain! Going to Retreats, Sesshin and such is a powerful facet of this Practice and not to be missed.

So, WELCOME TO "THE 15-Minute Sit"

Please visit the forum thread here!

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Filed under Talks for New Folks ·

January 9, 2012 @ 4:33 am

SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

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I have been having a little back-and-forth with Rev. Dosho Port about some statements made on his blog, in a post aptly titled "Who Gets to Say Anyway?" ...

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wildfoxzen/2012/01/what-what-is-it-isnt-and-who-gets-to-say-anyway.html

There are many Paths up and down the no-mountain mountain, each suited to sentient beings with differing needs. I believe that there are students who may benefit from Koan introspection alone, and those who will not. There are student who will benefit from Shikantaza alone, and those who will not. And there are students who may benefit from some combination, and those who will not. All beautiful paths, suited (or not) to different people.

So I was rather saddened and surprised to see Dosho express a seemingly narrow view of Koan teaching, stating ...

Soto priests without koan training comment on koans regularly (including myself in my nefarious past). ... Now that I’ve done some koan training, I confess to this hubris in my own past and from my current perspective would like to encourage my Soto non-koan trained friends to consider the possibility that there might well be something in a koan that they have not seen from their shikantaza perspective.

I wrote him back to say I agree with his comment that Shikantaza practitioners might not see or teach Koans as Dosho's school or sect teaches, but that, in turn, those other folks "should consider that there may be something in Koans that they have not tasted in their dreams without piercing the purity of Shikantaza". When I informed Dosho that our Treeleaf Community would soon begin dancing with the Book of Equanimity (the Shōyōroku), a collection of Koans much cherished in the Soto world for nearly 1000 years, Dosho wrote:

Seriously, I suggest that you don’t. From what I’ve read of your views on koan and shikantaza, I wonder if you might be misleading your community by working through koan with them – koan that you yourself have not worked through with anybody. Perhaps qualifying what your doing by saying that this is just your view….

Hmmm. Respectfully, that seems a very narrow vision of the Gateless Gate to Buddhist Truth! Dosho did not wish to continue the discussion on his own blog. So, I thought to respond here and invite Rev. Dosho or anyone to offer views (provided one doesn't omit the non-views too!)

So, WHO OWNS THE KOANS?

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.

Please visit the forum thread here!

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January 6, 2012 @ 2:42 am

January 7th, 2012- OUR MONTHLY 4-hour ZAZENKAI!

WELCOMING THE NEW YEAR TOGETHER ...

Dear All,

Please 'sit-a-long' with our MONTHLY 4-hour ZAZENKAI, netcast LIVE 8am to noon Japan time Saturday morning (that is New York 6pm to 10pm, Los Angeles 3pm to 7pm (Friday night), London 11pm to 3am and Paris midnight to 4am (early Saturday morning)) ... and visible at the following link during those times ...

LIVE ZAZENKAI NETCAST at JUSTIN.TV:

CLICK ON THE TAB ON LOWER RIGHT FOR 'FULL SCREEN

http://www.justin.tv/treeleafzen

But FEAR NOT if not possible for you to join 'live' in your location at those times, as the entire sitting is recorded in 'REAL TIME' and available for full participation 'ON DEMAND' at ANY TIME after that, no different from the 'live' sitting . Just click then on the links below:

THE 'REAL TIME, ANY TIME' recorded version is divided into 3 parts as follows (click on the links) :

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

ZAZENKAI PART I LINK:

Watch live video from treeleafzen on Justin.tv

01:50 - 02:30 DHARMA TALK & ZAZEN

02:30 - 02:40 KINHIN

02:40 - 03:15 ZAZEN

03:15 - 03:30 KINHIN

TALK & ZAZEN PART 2 LINK:

Watch live video from treeleafzen on Justin.tv

03:30 - 04:00 METTA CHANT & ZAZEN, VERSE OF ATONEMENT, FOUR VOWS, & CLOSING

ZAZENKAI PART 3 LINK:

Watch live video from treeleafzen on Justin.tv

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 Chant Book (PDF) at the following link:

viewtopic.php?f=11&t=2231

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!

Gassho, Jundo

Please visit our forum thread here!

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