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January 29, 2013 @ 10:39 am

SIT-A-LONG with Jundo: Even Buddhas Get the Blues

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.

Please visit the forum thread here!

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January 18, 2013 @ 11:41 pm

SIT-A-LONG with Jundo: The BEST Zen is SO DISAPPOINTING!

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.

Please visit the forum thread here!

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January 10, 2013 @ 12:54 am

SIT-A-LONG with Jundo: I AM-NOT-NOT-AM-AM A ZEN ARTIST CLERGY!

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?

Please visit the forum thread here!

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January 6, 2013 @ 3:03 am

Sit-A-Long with Taigu: No Expectations

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January 5, 2013 @ 5:06 am

SIT-A-LONG with Jundo: Safe Landings

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.

Please visit the forum thread here!

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