Treeleaf Zendo Podcasts


Archive for January 2011

January 28, 2011 @ 10:59 pm


In our Soto Way, this Life-Practice-Enlightenment is the constant painting of a picture ... a masterpiece ever created and simultaneously complete in each stroke by stroke by stroke.

The goal is not to strip away the surface image in search of blank canvas.

Nor is it a finished masterpiece, done once and for all, then hung in a museum to gather dust.

It is not something one sees outside oneself, as if one merely need see the painting hanging on a gallery wall and is thus done.

It is not simply a matter of realizing that the image on the canvas is a fiction, or real as real can be, or something in between (although all of those). It may be a dream, a dream within a dream ... yet even a painted rice cake can fill all hunger, says Master Dogen.

Rather, it is the art of creation, mastery of the brushwork ... whereby, one is free in life to paint a master stroke, or an ugly stroke, in each here and now instant stroke ... free to create the life-self-world work of art one chooses by one's words, thoughts and acts, one stroke building on the last. It is an ongoing opus, a total composition, paint drop by paint drop, continuing so long as we live.

Nevertheless, while painting onward ... each stroke by stroke is already Whole and Complete, the totality of every painting ever painted contained in each drop.

The 'master artist' is not the mere 'beginner'. Although each stroke is ever new, a new beginning, the true "master" tends to the masterful stokes and compositions, rather than the hack or low or damaging.

All time and space and history painted us into this painting of a world ... and thus we were born as part of its scene, part of this world. Now, alive, we find ourselves with brush in hand ... ready to continue the making of the total composition ongoing from this point forward ... a painted being in a picture, and a being painting the picture, all just the painting all along. Maybe we cannot change the vast, total composition as just one person (the world is a big and complicated place), but we can change so much ... repaint the ugly into something balanced, beautiful, serene. The brushstrokes of our actions, Karma, will be seen far into the future.

The timeless achievement of Enlightenment is A Treasure beyond Measure, a Priceless Painting we realize was (as was the jewel in the Lotus Sutra) hidden in plain view all along! Looking for the painting from inside the painting, we cannot find it. Or, better said, it is a Priceless Painting that we realize was never hidden nor bound by any frame, just who we have been all along, and we that ... for we are the work of art, all of life a work of art.

What is more, the Vast, Powerful composition ... filled with happy faces and crying faces, images of peace and of war, growth and death, majestic mountains and scrawled graffiti on city walls ... is embraced for Totality, rejecting none of it. All painted right in, making the Whole.

All the Master Peace.

Today’s Sit-A-Long video follows at this link. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

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January 23, 2011 @ 6:21 pm

Koku 3

The Nishijima Cross translation gives this version of the text:

Zen Master Shakkyō Ezō of Bushū asks Zen Master Seidō Chizō,“Do you understand how to grasp space?” Seidō says, “I understand how to grasp it.” The master says, “How do you grasp it?” Seidō clutches at space with his hand. The master says, “You do not understand how to grasp space.” Seidō says, “How do you grasp it, brother?” The master grabs Seidō’s nostrils and pulls them. Groaning with pain, Seidō says, “It is very brutal to yank a per- son’s nostrils, but I have directly been able to get free.” The master says, “Directly grabbing hold like this, you should have got it from the beginning.” Shakkyō’s words “Do you understand how to grasp space?” ask “Are you too ‘the thoroughly realized body as hands and eyes’?”Seidō says, “I understand how to grasp it.” Space is one unadulterated mass, which, once touched is then tainted.Since being tainted, “space has fallen to the ground.”

As we are entertaining ourselves with ten thousand things to do, to dream about, to chase; as we imagine the truth to be found somewhere else, we neglect the very precious Koku of this-self-here-now. Getting hold of our nose is to get in touch with the only reality that matters. Everything else belongs to the realm of projection and illusion, we have to start where we live, in this space of being and practice and then we may unfold.

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January 21, 2011 @ 8:43 pm

The Good Fight

Some folks think that BUDDHISTS ARE MERELY PUSHOVERS. Well, sometimes we are "pushovers" ... allowing events to just push us over without resistance, roll past us, all until we (hopefully) roll back up!

Other times ... like the Dalai Lama in his resistance to China, like the monks of Burma, like Gandhi (okay, not a 'Buddhist' really, but ya get the point), even like "Master Caine" in that old tv show ... we may need to push back, protest, resist, fight a good fight appropriate to the circumstances. Stilll, there is a way to do that, and not do that, and non-do that ... hopefully free of greed, anger and ignorance, free of all resistance even in the resistance. It might be against social injustice, it might be against an illness, it might be about something necessary and right in our own life that deserves standing up for (as well as sitting down on the Zafu for).


Today’s Sit-A-Long video follows at this link. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

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January 14, 2011 @ 8:58 pm

Atonement / At-One-Ment

We all make mistakes ... big and small. Perhaps when we are all Buddhas, we will be beyond bad choices and harmful acts ... but now we are each just fallible human beings, Bodhisattvas living in this tricky Saha world, hopefully doing the best we can. Human beings will make mistakes.

However, what we do with those mistakes ... whether we learn from them, seek not to repeat them, and repair the damage we have created ... makes all the difference in the world.

What's more ... we ARE Buddha too, right now and all along. Thus, even amid all our big and small mistakes ... there is no mistake, nor could there be.

Of course, to live from only one such perspective ... that there are mistakes, or that there is never any mistake ... would be a BIG MISTAKE! Fortunately, we BUDDHA-NOT-BUDDHAS can live by knowing life as each at once ... with no mistake or harm possible, yet repairing what needs to be repaired as best we can.

Thus, we ATONE. Thus, All is At-ONE.

OH, AND JUST A REMINDER! Our Annual Jukai (Undertaking The Precepts) Ceremony will be netcast Sunday at the following times and link. Please come to watch and welcome those who are receiving the Precepts with our Sangha, folks joining together from so many places.

SUNDAY, JANUARY 16th 2011 at MIDNIGHT (Sunday/Monday) JAPAN TIME (which should be SUNDAY 10AM in NY, 7AM on the West Coast, 3pm in London, 4 pm in Paris).

Today’s Sit-A-Long video follows at this link. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

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January 9, 2011 @ 10:07 pm

Koku 2

Futher comments on Koku based on Uji, Being-time. The broad and big body of Koku contains all actions and times:

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January 7, 2011 @ 8:41 pm

Motion Still

Just Sitting, Thinking-Not Thinking ... is the silence always heard in noise and silence, the stillness that is both movement and standing still ... the peace encountered even as disturbance .... . ... ... ... the full, vibrant life ... ... ...


. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... that is clear, living, empty space ...

. . . . . 


Today’s Sit-A-Long video follows at this link. Remember: recording ends soon after the beginning bells; a sitting time of 20 to 35 minutes is recommended.

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January 2, 2011 @ 8:59 am

Eido’s Shame …

... and other reflections on "When Roshis Act Ugly, Small And All Too Human" ...

Before I add my small voice to the many calls of condemnation of Eido Tai Shimano "Roshi", and demands for his self-reflection, dismissal and disgrace (more here from James Ford) ... ... o-zen.html

... I would like to reflect on the overall question of when Buddhist teachers act with human weakness, ugliness, seemingly against all that they stand for.

I think it a fallacy to believe that Buddhists, no matter the level or depth of the practitioner, are ever completely free during this life from being just human. It is a religious, heroic image created by the many old Buddhist stories which scrubbed clean all the tales of the ancestors of the past, robbing them of every flaw and placing them on golden pedestals. A Buddha or Ancestor (Jesus or any Saint in any religion) dies and ... century by century ... those in the religion (looking from afar at what those attainments actually were on the part of their "religious heroes" and with need to depict their power) start to imagine, fantasize and exaggerate the wonderful nature of the teacher and teaching into something super-human. What was merely "Great, Profound and Wonderful" must become "Mysterious, Wondrous and (often) Ridiculous". The result is called an "hagiography"

In any large group of people ... whether Zen priests, other Buddhist, Christian or Jewish priests and clergy of all kinds ... there will always be examples of greed, anger and ignorance. Furthermore, in the lifetime of any one individual ... even among the best of us ... there are sure to be moments of greed, anger and ignorance.

All human beings, from 'Great Bodhisattvas' right on down to the rest of us, are human beings ... and that means rough edges, cracks and ugly spots, flesh, fallings down and flaws. (At least, of course, until we eventually become Perfect Golden Buddhas ... assuming that even those ideals reside anywhere beyond our flawed human imaginations) Human beings are human. That includes Zen and other Buddhist teachers, no less.

And it is a breath of fresh air that we finally realize so about Buddhist practice. It is also a chance for the true POWER of this practice to manifest ... for it is a practice for flawed human beings who wish to be better. The true value of this Buddhist Way is proven there.

What matters most is what we do with those flaws in life, how we live as human beings ... with a bit of grace, ease, non-attachment, wholeness, peace, at-oneness and sincerity, great Compassion and Loving Kindness toward our fellow flawed beings. Practice does not remove all our human rough spots, but it allows a wild and imperfect stone to be imperfect (perfectly imperfect) yet simultaneously material to be polished into a jewel ... so many rough edges made soft and round. The Precepts are a guide for constant moment-to-moment practice in "not falling down". One cannot polish a tile into a Buddha ... but the constant polishing is Buddha.

What our Practice does accomplish, if diligently followed, is to free us from the worst (at least among most long time practitioners I know ... apparently, not so for Eido and his ilk). It does work to make us better people. (In fact, most clergy I have met ... not just Buddhist clergy, but of all religions ... are good, caring, ethical people, the bad apples like Eido Shimano aside). Most of the Zen teachers I have met ... especially those with a few years and some maturity under their belt ... tend to be lovely, gentle, well rounded, self-actuated, moderate, compassionate, healthy people - balanced, living life with fullness and well. It would be a shame if someone like "Eido Roshi" were taken as representative of all Buddhist teachers everywhere, or used as the basis to claim that the Buddhist Way is without value ... for the countless good and decent teachers are proof otherwise.

Now, the reason (in my opinion) to condemn someone such as Eido is --not-- because he is a Buddhist clergy who had a sexual affair with a student or several students. That, unfortunately, is all too human and is a matter between consenting adults (although there are great possibilities of the teacher taking advantage of his/her position vis-a-vis the student even there). The reason instead is because he clearly engaged in decades of horribly abusive sexual conduct which hurt the victims deeply and profoundly, then added to the hurt of victims in order to protect himself, then covered it up time and again, seeking to whitewash his reputation. It now appears that he was aided in this by people around him. Few (Aitken Roshi and a few others being the exception) spoke out until now, for there is a tendency in the Buddhist world to look away, hoping that the problem will simply vanish or be dealt with by the wrongdoing teacher's own students (in this case, despite countless promises, it was not). Thus, it is time for bodies such as the American Zen Teachers Association to have some means to censure teachers who violate the ethics accompanying their positions of trust, and to force such teachers and their students and Sangha into repenting and reform. Shame on them for not doing so until now, shame on all of us for not intervening more.

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