Treeleaf Zendo Podcasts


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.

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 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. 

Please visit the forum thread here!
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August 8, 2013 @ 11:10 pm

SIT-A-LONG with Jundo - TO ALL SOLO PRACTITIONERS: Don’t Be A Selfish Pratyeka-buddha

Many times I hear folks say that they want to practice on their own, and not join in a Buddhist Community, because doing so gets in the way of their own practicing and sitting. They say that other people or having a teacher are a distraction, take up "my" precious time, are not a benefit to "me".

Well, I say: Don't be a selfish sitter, a Pratyeka-buddha. 

There is an obligation, a face of the Bodhisattva Vow and taking refuge in Sangha, to support the Practice of others and not to be a Pratyeka-buddha. Ours is a Path beyond one's personal needs and wants. It is not a matter simply about what "I" want, what "I" need to do or learn, staring into my own navel. 


In Buddhism, one who attains enlightenment through his own efforts rather than by listening to the teachings of a buddha. The way of the self-enlightened buddha was criticized in Mahayana Buddhism, which rejects the path of self-enlightenment as too limiting and embraces the ideal of the Bodhisattva, who postpones final enlightenment to work for the rescue of others.
It is much like family and children, who we tend to and spend time with ... whether we selfishly always want to or not, and whether or not we would rather run away. Community activity is vital. Sure, there is a place for "time alone" (whether in my "man cave" in the house or my "Bodhidharma cave" in the mountains), but in the end we have a duty to the community ... and to ourself ... to help and be together. 

Self and other are 'not two', and the community leaves us all stronger.

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June 22, 2013 @ 1:10 am



     ... WHOLENESS

... so whole that even saying "wholeness" is wholly unnecessary.

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May 5, 2013 @ 10:22 pm

Original face, Dogen ’s words

in spring, the cherry blossoms

in summer, the cuckoo 's song,

in autumn, the moon shining,

in winter, the frozen snow:

how pure and clear are the seasons!

Please visit the forum thread here!

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April 26, 2013 @ 11:14 pm


I would like to criticize some Soto Zen Teachers for how we may be teaching Shikantaza (I know that all the Soto Teachers fully understand what I say. My point is merely whether we are conveying the message clearly enough).

Yes, we teach the importance of sitting in a balanced way, be it in Lotus, Seiza, on a chair or the like. We may show students how to place the mind on the breath, the Hara, how to "return to the posture" or sit boundlessly or some other way. We may tell folks about "opening the hand of thought", letting thoughts and emotions go without getting caught in them. Yes, we emphasize that our way is "Goalless" sitting, or "good for nothing", and that one should leave at the door thoughts of "gaining enlightenment" or some extra-ordinary state ...

... but do we emphasize enough how Extra-Ordinary (beyond all small human weighing of "ordinary or extra-ordinary") Sitting Zazen Truly is? Are we too focused on the mechanics of sitting (as important as such is), and not on the Wondrous Embodiment of Buddha which sitting manifests? Do we teach that a moment of Zazen is Buddha Realized, All Fulfilled, Holy-Wholey-Whole that completes and allows all of life? Are we afraid of sounding too starry eyed about Zazen? Do we point students sufficiently to the Timelessness of sitting for a time, that Zazen is the One and Only Place to Be in that Moment of Sitting, holding all the Sutras? Do we teach that Zazen is a Sacred Complete Act? A Moment of Sitting As Enlightened Sitting, Gainless-Enlightenment-Gained?

Perhaps we are too focused on presenting Zazen as "just sitting" without getting to the heart of sitting as "Just All Reality, Every Mountain and Stone, All the Buddhas and Ancestors Sitting This Sitting"?

Master Dogen, when writing of Zazen, would remind us (this from Zanma-O-Zanmai. It makes my words seem quite understated!):

Now crossing the legs of the human skin, flesh, bones, and marrow, one crosses the legs of the king of samādhis samādhi. The World Honored One always maintains sitting with legs crossed; and to the disciples he correctly transmits sitting with legs crossed; and to the humans and gods he teaches sitting with legs crossed. The mind seal correctly transmitted by the seven buddhas is this.

The Buddha Śākyamuni, sitting with legs crossed under the bodhi tree, passed fifty small kalpas, passed sixty kalpas, passed countless kalpas. Sitting with legs crossed for twenty-one days, sitting cross-legged for one time — this is turning the wheel of the wondrous dharma; this is the buddha’s proselytizing of a lifetime. There is nothing lacking. This is the yellow roll and vermillion roller [that hold all the Sutras and Commentaries]. The buddha seeing the buddha is this time. This is precisely the time when beings attain buddhahood.

He pulls no punches.

And now turning from Teachers to Students, I wag my finger a bit more. So many (most?) who try Shikantaza for a time do not truly understand what it means to be wholly still, to not need to run after the next diversion or teaching or practice or book or entertainment. Or, they misunderstand our "goalless" sitting as some kind of complacency.

My biggest "complaint" about folks?

Most find it so hard to drop the "running here and there, chasing this and that" in life and "Just Sit" in Wholeness, "Just Sit" Buddha. Most are so used to looking for the answers "somewhere over the next hill" that they can't stop running, looking for the "next shiny thing". (Like the eye looking all around for the eye) Thus, they abandon the Practice too soon, running after the next promising thing, and the next. I have spoken about that many times before:

Oh, some folks "get it", what it truly means to find Stillness amid both life's stillness and motion, Silence that sings as quiet or music or the noise of bombs exploding. But other folks don't "get it", or take it that we are pushing merely complacency, resignation and passivity, which is not the case.

We are not preaching slogans from greeting cards, not tranquilized dullness, not a foresaking of vibrant curiosity and questioning, not prescribing a drug to bring numbness ... but Crystal Clarity and Wholeness.

Rising up from the cushion, whether lighting incense or changing a baby diaper, in the temple or the office, in a forest or the city streets ... we get done what needs to be done, move forward though no place to go. One might then be able to manifest that same Ordinary-Extra-Ordinary Wondrous Embodiment of Buddha, Fully Realized, All Fulfilled, Holy-Wholey-Whole, holding all Timeless-Time & Space, the One and Only Place to Be, a Sacred Act Complete ... in every moment and small action of life.

Please visit the forum thread here!

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March 30, 2013 @ 3:30 am

True color, mokuran

What is your true colors? How can you show your true color?

As the needle goes through the field of mokuran birds songs traffic sounds even the distant train even your sweet face clouded with suffering

all of them all are sewn into mokuran

true color

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February 27, 2013 @ 7:14 am

The Dharma is utterly useless

February 17, 2013 @ 1:16 am

SIT-A-LONG with Jundo: Beautiful-Ugly-Buddha Eye

Sitting with the beautiful AND the ugly in this world ... finding that which simultaneously transcends and holds, breathes in and breathes out, "beautiful vs. ugly" ... is our Practice.

We are free of aversion and attraction even as we have our ordinary human aversions and attractions, pulling the weeds we can and watering the flowers ... even as we embrace each as just what they are. One finds Wholeness, Light, Beauty that is unconcerned by small human judgments of beauty and ugliness.

We observe the terrible battle fields for what they are, even as we seek to make peace. We sit serenely in the sick room, even as we try to cure the disease. We transcend yet fully embrace a world of beauty and ugliness, even as we do what we can to mend the ugly and make it beautiful.

Is it not the same when we find a certain ugliness amid the beautiful in Buddhism too? A naive student who demands ONLY beauty and goodness in the world ... even the Buddhist world ... one sidedly rejecting the sometimes distasteful or even criminal, may miss the Real Treasure that shines through all of it. That is so even as, in our Wisdom and Equanimity, we keep pulling the weeds we can and nurture the flowers, praise the good and punish the wrongdoer. All at Once, the Eye of Buddha holding all.

Master Dogen quoted his Master's poem in Baike, On Plum Blossoms ... which flower on gnarled twisted branches in our garden each cold February ...

The thorn-like, spike-branched Old Plum Tree

Suddenly bursts forth, first with one or two blossoms,

Then with three, four, five, and finally blossoms beyond count.

... So Beautiful, So Beautiful

Please visit the forum thread here!

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February 3, 2013 @ 5:11 pm

Sit-A-Long with Taigu: Unmasking

After Jundo s eloquent post and video, my humble take on the subject.

Much like the beautiful dancing Dorothy on the yellow bricks road, OUR JOB IS TO UNMASK THE WIZARD, in other words to dispell the illusion of the ego and turn the three poisons, the three little companions of Dorothy into compassion, wisdom and action.

Please visit the forum thread here!

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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


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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