Saturday, March 08, 2008

It's official -- I'm not good for much. Barely useful. Mostly absurd. And that's on a good day.
Three Friends and a Monk
There's a story of three people who are watching a monk standing on top of a hill. After they watch him for a while, one of the three says, "He must be a shepherd looking for a sheep he's lost." The second person says, "No, he's not looking around. I think he must be waiting for a friend." And the third person says, "He's probably a monk. I'll bet he's meditating." They begin arguing over what this monk is doing, and eventually, to settle the squabble, they climb up the hill and approach him. "Are you looking for a sheep?" "No, I don't have any sheep to look for." "Oh, then you must be waiting for a friend." "No, I'm not waiting for anyone." "Well, then you must be meditating." "Well, no. I'm just standing here. I'm not doing anything at all." ...[S]eeing Buddha-nature requires that we... completely be each moment, so that whatever activity we are engaged in--whether we're looking for a lost sheep, or waiting for a friend, or meditating--we are standing right here, right now, doing nothing at all.

(--Charlotte Joko Beck, Everyday Zen)
Every once in a while someone asks me about meditation. I'd rather point them to the sweet puppy. I tell them we just got a new round rug for the meditation room. That's all. Just sit down, shut up.

The disappearing hour happens tonight.

The odd ways of time!

Friday, March 07, 2008

In prison we wondered if by allowing and dying on the "t" (the cross) you return from there to here?

And if the ego is the obstacle to the river's flow, by dying to the ego you return to the flow of compassion through conflict?

These men are sangha of a Friday morning.
As I left my daytime resting place on Vulture Peak,
I saw an elephant
come up on the riverbank after its bath.

A man took a hook and said to the elephant,
Give me your foot.
The elephant stretched out its foot;
the man mounted.

Seeing what was wild before
gone tame under human hands,
I went into the forest
and concentrated my mind.

(- Dantika, in Susan Murcotts The First Buddhist Women
from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book)

So large the mind. So easily diverted by obstacle. So wild the rampage of thoughts. So spacious the gap between observer and thoughts observed.

Ever impressive is the way sea and land meet.

Resolving long journeys and many differences.

With mere reciprocity.

Arrives here.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

A mug of milk, a slice of Bischof's Brot, and return to silence.
Impermanence, aging, and illness
Do not give people a set time.
One may be alive in the morning,
Then dead at night,
Changing worlds in an instant.
We are like the spring frost,
Like the morning dew
Suddenly gone.

--Kuei-Shan (771-854)
If you want to be a monk, be a monk. If a no-count, be that. What matters is that prayer be allowed through you into the world.

Be anything you wish.

Just allow through what prayer brings, namely, formless, unconditioned, refreshing grace.

Pass through well!.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Let egoic mind go on by. There's so much less crap to sweep up.
If we let a wild elephant loose in a populated area it will cause massive destruction, but the uncontrolled wild mind can cause much more harm than such a crazed beast. If the deluded, wild elephant of our mind is not subdued, it will create much suffering for us in this life and will cause us to experience the sufferings of the deepest hell in the future. In fact, if we investigate we can see that the creator of all the sufferings of this and future lives is nothing but our unsubdued mind. To subdue this wild beast is much more important than bringing a jungle elephant under our control.

Many benefits follow from taming our mind. If we take the rope of mindfulness and tie our elephant mind securely to the post of virtue, all of our fears will swiftly come to an end

If we do not develop mindfulness, our meditations will be hollow and empty. There will be nothing to keep our wild elephant mind from running back and forth in its customary, uncontrolled manner between objects of attachment, anger, jealousy and so forth.
(- Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Meaningful to Behold, from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book)
But if sweep we must, sweep we will.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Together we live. Together we die.

What is life? What is death?
For thirty years
I searched for the sword.
Often I watched leaves fall
And branches send forth shoots.
But from the moment
I saw peaches bloom,
No further doubts.
- Ling –yun (d. 729)
Letter from woman saying her husband nears death. She is sorry for waiting so long to say it in the open. He is a private man. I light candle for him, for her.

One candle flame with many reflections through and in panes of glass behind it on window sill. Same flame, only cool to touch.
Zen Master Bo Mun: Last night we met in small groups to discuss the most important issues of our practice. The major issue was balance: how to find it in the midst of formal practice as Zen students, families, jobs, relationships, etc.

There are two formal aspects to Zen practice: the killing sword and the sword that gives life. The killing sword means, how do we give ourselves to the situation? How, without repressing, do we let go of our condition, opinion, and situation and really offer ourselves to what's going on in the moment? For most of us that requires a fair amount of hard work. Sometimes it's painful and difficult. If we try to live that way all the time, only being "good" or only taking certain roles, most of us find that it doesn't work. We become brittle, irritable, out of balance. We do many things with such a charge behind them that we put ourselves in precarious situations.

The other aspect is the sword that gives life: the experience of empowering ourselves, doing things which come naturally, that we love to do and find fulfillment in. When we do too many of these things, most of us get a certain softness or flatness. There's no keen working edge to our practice. It's hard to believe in ourselves if we go too far to that side.

So there's a swing between "putting it all down" in formal practice, life at a Zen Center, the demands of family and job and relationships; and on the other side, empowering ourselves and being happy so that our lives are workable, so that we can be the kind of people in the world that other people would like to be.

These two aspects come up in many different dimensions. On the simplest level, they arise with the inhalation and exhalation of the breath, sitting completely and receiving experience on the cushion, and receiving what comes up in family life and all the other areas. How to balance all this was the major issue that came out of last night's meetings.

In talking with Zen Master Seung Sahn now, it would be nice if we could get into the spirit of heckling him a little. It's hard to do that, because whenever you ask him a question you are taking your life in your hands. I am reminded of the relationship between Ananda and the Buddha. The Buddha would give long dharma talks and then Ananda would say, "Yes, but what about men and women and what goes on between them?" The Buddha would make some reply, then Ananda would say, "Well, it's all well and good for you to say that, you're the Buddha (or the Zen Master). People fly you around everywhere and everyone bows to you, but we're here, slugging it out in the trenches. How about us?" So a little bit of that spirit would be helpful. Zen Master Seung Sahn, last night many people talked about balance and doing hard training. How do we find balance?

Zen Master Seung Sahn: Many people are confused about what their job is: how much they should practice, how much they should take care of their family. Sometimes this gets unbalanced. So we must talk about our direction. Why are we living in this world? Direction is very important.

If your direction is clear, then your relationships will be clear, your outside job will be clear, your inside practicing job will be clear. If your direction is not clear, it means you are holding some opinion, condition, or situation. Then already you have lost what is important. Many people want to drink alcohol and have a good time. If this mind appears, you cannot have a correct relationship to your family or your inside and outside jobs. Your practicing will not be clear. Nothing will be clear.

Everybody has this mind: I like movies, ice cream, good restaurants. Single people want a girlfriend or boyfriend to have a good time with. We have a lot of this "wanting a good feeling" mind. Good feeling is sometimes necessary; but first, what is most important? If we understand this, then family, relationships, job, practicing will be no problem. Everything will be correct and balanced.

(--from The Sword that Kills and the Sword that Gives Life -- Finding balance in Zen practice; Zen Master Seung Sahn with Zen Master Bo Mun, at the third annual Kwan Um School of Zen Congress, 1985
Sometimes my direction is laying low. Not good. Not bad. Only laying low. With aspirin and vitamin c.
Zen Master Seung Sahn
Together Action

One evening during an informal talk at the Providence Zen Centre a student said to Soen Sa Nim: “Soen Sa Nim, you always teach about “together action.” But suppose two people were hungry and had some food, but it wasn’t enough. What should they do?

Soen Sa Nim: “Divide the food.”

Student: “No. They don’t have enough to divide it and keep them alive. Then what should they do?”

Soen Sa Nim: “Divide the food and together die.”

(--Dharma Talk,
We do not live alone. We do not die alone.

Looking at candle flame --

Is prayer enough...

This night.

Monday, March 03, 2008

We're back. They've met. The circling begins. We'll see.
In the still night by the vacant window,
Wrapped in monk’s robe I sit in meditation.
Navel and nostrils line up straight;
Ears paired to the slope of the shoulders.
Window whitens – the moon comes up;
Rain’s stopped, but drops go on dripping.
Wonderful – the moon of this moment,
Distant, vast.
- Ryokan (1758–1831)
Mu-ge the Maine Coon mix...
meet Rokpa the Border Collie mix. (In addition to his farm name, Blake, he will primarily be called Rokpa. "Rokpa" is a Tibetan word that means "to help" and "to serve.").

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

A robin redbreast in a cage
Puts all heaven in a rage.

A dove-house fill'd with doves and pigeons
Shudders hell thro' all its regions.
A dog starv'd at his master's gate
Predicts the ruin of the state.

Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born,
Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight.

Some are born to sweet delight,
Some are born to endless night.

We are led to believe a lie
When we see not thro' the eye,
Which was born in a night to perish in a night,
When the soul slept in beams of light.

God appears, and God is light,
To those poor souls who dwell in night;
But does a human form display
To those who dwell in realms of day.
(Opening and closing verses of William Blake's (1757–1827) Auguries of Innocence)

One returns from hospital. The other arrives from rescue farm.

And the remaining two of us?

We're also approaching home. We suspect so, at least. Wandering mendicants together, step by ( step.

A fine mix.