Treeleaf Zendo Podcasts


Archive for July 2012

July 21, 2012 @ 2:03 am

SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: Pain, Suffering & Freedom

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

Filed under Sit-A-Longs ·

July 16, 2012 @ 6:28 am


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.

Please visit the forum thread here!

Filed under Sit-A-Longs ·

July 13, 2012 @ 10:04 pm


We are pleased to announce our GLOBAL DAY OF SERVICE initiative here at Treeleaf. Starting in a few weeks, we will be asking each and all of our Treeleaf folks, in some way, to spend a day making their communities, the lives of others, this world a bit better. This is a chance to live the Virtues of Generosity and Giving, and our Bodhisattva Vows to Aid All Sentient Beings.

Please look for additional information, and ideas for activities suitable for you, in the ENGAGED & CHARITABLE PROJECTS CENTER of our forum. There, we hope to develop a variety of charitable and socially engaged projects and practices seeking to aid and assist our fellow sentient beings in this world. Please join in and do your part.

In fact, this is the "donation" we ask of you for participating in Treeleaf. Our Sangha is Freeing, but not Free ... and though we do not ask for money for our activities here, we do ask EVERYONE to roll up their sleeves and do something to help those truly in need. Thus, I am going to ask every single person sitting in our Sangha, without exception, to join in this. I hope other Buddhists and Buddhist groups ... anyone in fact ... will join with us on this project. This is not simply a matter of writing a check (though that is good too), but rather we will request "hands on" work of some kind taking a day or much of a day. No one type of activity will be required, although some activity is required of you, and there will be an activity suitable for each and all of you to choose, something for everyone despite busy schedules or physical limitations. There is always a way to help.

Please see this thread by Yugen for further information ...

And a bit more on this from me ...

Please visit the forum thread here!

Filed under Sit-A-Longs ·

July 6, 2012 @ 4:41 am

July Monthly Zazenkai Dharma Talk - Wild Fox Koan

Filed under Zazenkai ·

July 1, 2012 @ 9:41 pm

Blue mountains, gniocchi and Boss coffee

Filed under Sit-A-Longs ·

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