‘Zazen, this posture, is not only — not originally maybe a kind of training or something, but it is not just training, it is more the actual way of transmitting Buddha’s way to us. Through practice we can actually transmit Buddha’s teaching, because words is not good enough to actualize its teaching. So, naturally how we transmit it [is] through activity or through contact, through human relationships.’ (from the Suzuki Roshi Archive)
‘It is no accident that when we first learn about justice and fair play as children it is usually in a context where the issue is one of telling the truth. The heart of justice is truth telling, seeing ourselves and the world the way it is rather than the way we want it to be. In recent years sociologists and psychologists have documented the fact that we live in a nation where people are lying more and more each day.’ (All About Love)
You would think this book was published very recently, rather than at the turn of the millennium, for its constant topicality.
‘That which allows one part of a buddha’s awesome presence is is entire universe, the entire earth, as well as the entirety of birth and death, coming and going, of innumerable lands and lotus blossoms. Each of these innumerable lands and lotus blossoms is one part.
Students may think that “the entire universe” refers to this southen Continent of Jambudvipa, or all the Four Continents. Some may think of it as China or Japan. Regarding “the entire earth,” they think it is one billion worlds, or simply one province or prefecture. When you examine “the entire earth” or “the entire universe,” investigate them three or five times without stopping, even though you already see them as vast.
Understanding these words [about the entire universe] is going beyond buddhas and ancestors by seeing that extremely large is small and extremely small is large. Although this seems like denying that there is any such thing as large or small, this [understanding] is the awesome presence of active buddhas.’ (Shobogenzo Gyobutsu Iigi)
Similarly to the last Dogen post, this passage may scramble your brain about large and small, and that is what it is designed to do, so that you don’t get stuck in your thinking – if you do that, you will never be an active buddha with awesome presence.
The remaining snow still covers the temple-yard. Severe cold of this spring threatens my old bones. I am too lazy to speak of birth and death, or nirvana. I only sit on the Southern verandah, taking a sun bath with a potted plum tree.
The rains finally let up, and clear skies moved in – with a north wind, so it was extremely clear, but cold around the edges. It warmed up nicely for a couple of days, and is now cooling off again. But, January or not, blossoms and buds have started to show. The buckeye in my yard is budding out all over; on Sunday’s roam we saw cherry blossoms, magnolias and poppies on the sunny side of Potrero Hill.
In my student group check-in this week, several people spoke about how their internal weather had improved along with the external changes. There have been times for sure when I have felt relaxed and joyful just feeling warmed by the sun. The slow dawns and sunsets, with the new year’s new moon hanging low, have held promise of fine days.
I have tried to get some bike riding in on as many days as possible; since the usual strong afternoon winds are absent, it has been fun riding back to the ferry on the way home. In gaps between commitments, I go out for an hour around the city. But it is many months since I rode the kind of distances that I used to think of as my standard. Part of that has been circumstantial, and part of it is probably just age catching up with me.
Last weekend I had intended to do a longer ride on Saturday, since I had the roam on Sunday, but this plan was scuppered by my neighbours having a backyard party with a DJ and sound system on Friday night, that interrupted my sleep past midnight. I did ride, but was not feeling energetic enough to go too far or too hard.
In the afternoon I had two commitments: a jukai at Zen Center, which one of the ordinands had hoped I would attend, and an event in the park where I had volunteered to take photographs for the Bicycle Coalition. Both were lovely, though I would have stayed and mingled at the first longer if I hadn’t had to get to the second.
(In case you aren’t familiar with the title of the post, it comes from the Genjo Koan, but Dogen obviously never spent the early months of the year in San Francisco).
‘Master Dogen, founder of the Soto sect in Japan, said: “It isn’t that we do zazen; zazen lets us do zazen.”
I also say this to you now, whether you are new to Zen or an old practitioner. I regularly emphasize that there can be no gap in our practice of zazen for “me” to enter. We must really be zazen itself. Consequently, if we have the idea that we should put some force or strength into the lower belly or concentrate on something, then precisely this force or effort will somewhere defile your zazen. Even the thought I’ve got to make an effort is excessive, from the standpoint of purity. Our condition right now, at this very moment, is truly transparent, clean and clear. Dirt cannot adhere to it. It cannot be tarnished.’ (Unfathomable Depths)
‘The meditative cultivation of mindfulness opens us to see situations in a way that is attentive to the sensitivities and needs of everyone involved. It instills in us a perceptual capacity that most people lack, the ability to perceive nuances in every day life that signifies something important, but that typically eludes our attention. In this sense, meditation opens a space of receptivity within that attunes our minds to what is going on right now, all around us. Occasionally, and painfully, it shows us the harm that we have been causing, but could not see. As meditation proceeds, it awakens us to opportunities for sensitive and just treatment of others that were previously closed to our attention. In the meditative space of “no-self,” we become capable of “disinterested” action, that is, action that is not predicated primarily on what is good for us. This is a condition of moral freedom from a tendency is to become bound up within ourselves, inattentive to the world of others around us.’ (The Six Perfections)
We pondered this paragraph in my student group this week. We agreed about the possilities of opening to perception of nuances, and I was very struck on the notion of ‘moral freedom’ that is proposed as an outcome.
‘Logically we can understand that, without suffering, there would be no need for the compassion, wisdom, and skillful means of bodhisattva practice. This is a difficult teaching. It requires us to stay and investigate that which is troublesome and inconvenient in our world. Yet, it is only under these circumstances that our own buddhanature can bloom and bring forth the full flowering of realization. Over and over again, we renew our bodhisattva vow in the midst of this samsaric life. Who else can enact this practice but each of us?’ (from Lion’s Roar)
‘In my years as a retreatant and in the public sphere, I’ve learned much about how the ego–the illusion of a self that is separate from life–operates. The revealing of the ego in action – insights about how it functions- has a particular taste, a particular feel. Freedom has a flavor.
I’ve come to understand how collective systems arising out of the delusion that “we are separate” also have the same resonance as the personal delusion”/ am separate.” The workings of the ego, which we might think of as operating on a personal level, and the workings of collective conditioning have the same taste. I’ve had moments of experiencing how and where delusion–personal or collective-manifests and ripples through the mind and body in the same way, creating the same feel. And seeing through distortion, whether we are seeing through personal or collective delusion, has its own same feel. The feel of freedom.’ (The Heart Of Who We Are)
I’ve know Caverly for almost ten years through the Gen X Teachers’ Group, and I picked her her new book when I went to hear her speak at Zen Center recently. I very much appreciated her approach in the talk, and although I have only just started the book – and am trying to read the other books I also bought that day – I know I am going to find it rich and rewarding.
‘Student: Docho Roshi, what question can you ask a sweet potato?
Suzuki Roshi: A sweet potato? Many question [laughter]. May I eat you? [Laughs, laughter.]’ (from the Suzuki Roshi archives)