Transmitting the Light

‘The twenty-first patriarch was the Venerable Vasubandhu. One time the twentieth patriarch said, “I do not seek the Way, yet I am not confused. I do not venerate the Buddhas, yet I am not conceited. I do not meditate for long periods of time, yet I am not lazy. I do not restrict myself to just one meal a day, yet I am not attached to food. I do not know what is enough, yet I am not covetous. When the mind seeks nothing, this is called the Way.” When Vasubandhu heard this, he aroused the undefiled wisdom.’

From Keizan Jokin’s commentary: ‘If you think that sitting in meditation for a long time is the Way, then sitting in the womb for nine months would be the Way, so what would there be to seek later? … Ever since Bodhidharma came from India in order to make people see directly, zen masters have not spoken of having wisdom or not having wisdom, or of ancient learning and new learning. They have just made people alike sit up straight and calmly abide in the Self. This itself is the great teaching of tranquility and happiness.’


Katagiri Roshi

‘The bodhisattva vow to save all sentient beings isn’t based on an evaluation. It’s not thinking that all sentient beings need to be saved based on ideas of good or bad, right or wrong. A bodhisattva vows to save all sentient beings because most people don’t know where they are. We are already in the ocean of Buddha’s world, but we don’t know where the water is. We are confused.  We are already great beings, but we don’t realize it, so we create problems.’ (Each Moment is the Universe)

To be filed alongside the Dogen and Daido Loori from earlier in the week.

Other work

In a shameless piece of self-promotion, I want to invite anyone who is local to come to Zen Center to see a show of my photographs during December – which will be tricky at times as there will be a silent sesshin going on, and the holidays as well, when the building will be closed.

I am also scheduled to show work at the Wild Goose in Carmel Valley in January, and at Farleys on Potrero Hill in April; these will all feature different pictures.

Selecting for a show is somewhat hard – I spent a week revisiting my entire archive, from which I pulled about a thousand photos I wanted to keep on hand. From there I narrowed it down to thirty or so for City Center, and a dozen for the Wild Goose. The header picture above did not make the cut, though I had imagined it would. Printing up the likely choices helps inform the decision, as some images somehow don’t work when enlarged, or fail to make the impression I thought they would. Artist friends of mine urge me to stick to a particular theme, and I don’t find this easy (the Wild Goose will just be pictures from the wilderness around Tassajara, so that was a simpler choice). The City Center show is split between landscapes and urban abstracts, with one or two outliers I am particularly fond of; I do generally consider whether someone might want to buy the photo to hang on their wall, but not at the price of limiting my options.

One of the easier choices was the lead picture for the publicity; this is a shot from the summer at Tassajara, between the old and new bathhouses, at a place where hot springs water bubbles up to the surface – I know the verb is not accurate, but I can’t find another way to describe it. In any case, the cause of the ripple is underneath, not from above.

Hot springs ripple

Uchiyama Roshi

‘In Buddhism, finding the meaning of life never means to search for it among toys. A life which relies on toys for its value means nothing more than that one is being led around by these toys, thus losing sight of living with true purpose or intensity. To live the buddhadharma is to live without the necessity of having to be constantly entertained by toys. Having a passion for life means only to pour all our life forces into our true Self. Life, in terms of everything we encounter, the people with whom we come into contact, all the material things we use and handle every day – that is our life and our true Self, and it is into this that we throw our life force.’


‘When you first seek dharma, you imagine you are far away from its environs. But dharma is already correctly transmitted; you are immediately your original self.’ (Genjo Koan).

To be read alongside the Daido Loori quote from the other day. I have already posted this quote, but it never hurts to be reminded of the essentials at regular intervals. On one level we know it to be true; on another somehow we have to be able to trust that it is, and then manifest the truth of it in our lives.


The Hidden Lamp

‘Once a monk on pilgrimage met an old woman living alone in a hut. The monk asked, “Do you have any relatives?”
She said, “Yes.”
The monk asked, “Where are they?”
She answered, “The mountains, rivers, and the whole earth, the plants and trees, are all my relatives.”‘

In Florence Caplow’s commentary (all of which is worth reading), she says, ‘The Zen stories are quite clear: if you want to truly meet a teacher, you have to ask a question… You must understand that is is the asking that matters, not the answer. Because every real asking, every real meeting comes from the place where the Buddha glimmers in the depths. In the asking is the answerer, and in the answer is the asker. And in the meeting of the two, there are mountains, rivers, and the whole earth.’

I would perhaps add that the monk’s question may not have been that fierce, but the woman’s answer came from the depths.