Tara Brach

‘Even when it’s hard to appreciate goodness in someone, we can send lovingkindness anyway. At first we might feel fake or irritated; our good wishes may feel hollow or flat. But if we can regard those feelings with kindness and continue the practice, a surprising thing happens. By simply offering care, our care begins to wake up.‘ (Radical Forgiveness)

Perhaps you are sceptical about this claim. I did not start out my practice believing this kind of thing. But I invite you to try it for yourself and see. What do you have to lose, anyway?

Shohaku Okumura

‘Reality itself is a question for us. There is no way to reduce the reality of our life to any logical system and completely understand it, because our life is so complex. Reality is always asking us, “What is this life? Who are we? What am I doing?” Somehow we have to answer with our practice. Practice doesn’t necessarily mean sitting or studying the Buddha’s teaching. Practice can mean the activities of our day-to-day lives. Even when we try to avoid answering reality’s questions, that avoidance itself is an answer. If we try to deny reality, that’s also an answer. So we can’t avoid it. Each one of us has to engage this reality, including our self, body, mind, and situation. Our self and our situation work together. We have to accept this total reality as our self. Self is not a separate part of reality. Our life is the sum of all the things happening inside and outside of us.’ (Living by Vow)

Shodo Harada

‘Zazen is not a matter of intellection; it must be rooted in the physical sense of inner liberation that is most easily accessed through sitting. This sense of liberation is not in itself enough, however. It is also necessary to attain an inner state open to the essential nature of things. If liberation was all that mattered, it would be enough to drug ourselves to sleep, but this would hardly resolve the problem of how to act in our everyday lives from a stable inner essence, regardless of how turbulent or dangerous the outer circumstances are. It is here that the importance of sitting emerges, for it is through sitting that we are most easily able to stabilize ourselves in this inner essence.’ (The Path to Bodhidharma)

Chan Master Sheng Yen

‘There is no wisdom without experience. Setbacks are a kind of experience or process; adversities are a kind of test or training. If, in the face of adversity, you can remain unperturbed, without resentment or hatred, and handle it calmly and wisely, treat it compassionately, then it will no longer be adversity.’ (Zen and Inner Peace)

Blanche Hartman

‘When I first met Suzuki Roshi, I thought, “I want to be like him!” The best teacher for you is someone who inspires you by the wisdom and compassion you see in the teacher as she or he goes about daily life and interacts with the people around her or him.’ (Seeds for a Boundless Life)

I think I have mentioned before that one of the things that made me feel comfortable in my first few months at Zen Center, when I was living a new and unfamiliar life in a new country, was that I could look at the teachers and see heart-warming examples of how I wanted to live and grow old. Blanche was perhaps foremost among those, especially in terms of how she went about her daily life, which as I have always maintained, taught me as much as anything she said from the dharma seat – the miraculous activity talked about the other day.

Mountain Seat - Blanche soji copy
This is not the first time I have used this picture, but it illustrates the point perfectly. On the morning of the 2012 Mountain Seat ceremony, Blanche busied herself cleaning the main hallway, just because it needed doing, and she was there to do it.