Sharon Salzberg

‘See what motivating factor is strongest in you prior to an action, and explore it without judgement. Does it seem to have a nature that will incline the mind toward suffering, or toward the end of suffering? Toward contraction, attachment, or anger, or toward love, compassion, sympathetic joy, or equanimity? Notice that the decision to follow or not to follow an intention into action is a separate and distinct moment from perceiving the nature of the intention itself. Notice that the more fully aware you are of the nature of the motivation, the more you truly have a choice as to whether to act upon it or not.’  (Lovingkindness)

This was one of the quotes I used in my recent class. Since the distinction she makes is quite subtle, especially when read aloud, I used the example of wanting an ice cream as distinct from going to get an ice cream.

Keido Fukushima

‘We can’t anticipate the time of our death. We don’t get to make a reservation for our death as we do for a seat on the bullet train. Death can happen suddenly. So if we keep trying our best in life, responding freely to happiness and unhappiness, then when death comes we will also do our best. This is the Mahayana way of realization in everyday life.’ (Zen Bridge)

I put this post in the schedule a couple of weeks ago, but it seems even more apposite now.

Michael Stone

‘The world is vast and the body and breath are spacious when we are at ease with others and ourselves. This ease comes through committed practice, in which we learn how to open to the life of the body, the situations of others, and the moods that move through us with equanimity and creativity. Don’t get stuck. Don’t go ahead. Just stop and look at the type on this page, the quality of light in the room where you are, the sounds in the distance. This is where you enter. Each sound is a pearl, a treasure, a wave that brings you back to your body. There is nothing subtle to find. Look at the walls and the crack in the ceiling. Look at all the cracks and the fine woodwork and the realness of the real that pervades all we are doing. All this is a gift. Set forth this miraculous gift.’ (Awake in the World)

At Zen Center, a phrase that used to circulate regularly was ‘death is certain; time of death is uncertain.’ I particularly hear Blanche, while she was still alive, saying it, but I know it did not originate with her. Reading of the death of Michael Stone was hard to take in, beyond the suddenness, and the sense of the untimeliness of it. I couldn’t say that I knew him so well; we met at a conference in 2013, at Zen Center once or twice after that, and he came to stay the night on his way out of Tassajara last summer. In our exchanges I found him to be a warm person who was full of life, honest and clear (his dharma name – Shoken, ‘Sees Clearly’ – was most apt), and a wonderful mentor with whom it was easy to talk through issues and problems. Since the mahasangha is intimately woven, I was alerted to the news by Djinn in Ireland, and was later reminded that my room-mate was helping him to edit his next book. Not having much of profundity to say, I will quote again the last line above (you can see other quotes I have used on this blog here): Set forth this miraculous gift. This is what he did while he was alive.

Deer Park Michael.jpg
Michael at Deer Park monastery in 2013

Nyogen Senzaki

This desert on the plateau
Became a village of evacuees.
The birds began to visit us from distance,
To sing their beautiful songs, these summer mornings.

July 17th 1944 – written at an internment camp in Wyoming

Huang-Po

‘Most people allow their mind to be obstructed from the world and then try to escape from the world. They don’t realise that their mind obstructs the world. If they could only let their minds be empty, the world would be empty. Don’t misuse the mind. If you want to be free of the world, you should forget the mind. Once you forget the mind, the world becomes empty. And when the world becomes empty, the mind disappears. If you don’t forget the mind and only get rid of the world, you only succeed in becoming more confused. Thus, it is said, ‘all things are only mind.’ But the mind cannot be found. When you can’t find a thing, you have reached the final goal. Why bother running around looking for liberation? This is how you should control the mind. Once you see your nature, you won’t have any deluded thoughts. Once you have no deluded thoughts, you have controlled your mind.’

I found this in an old folder of zen quotes. I never really got my head around Huang-Po, and I am still not sure I have. Perhaps that is for the best.

Shishuang

‘All of you each has what is fundamental. There’s no point searching for it. It’s not to be found in right or wrong, nor in anything you can talk about. The entire source of the teaching of a lifetime, capable of setting people’s lives to order, all comes down to this very moment, directly to the fact that the Dharma body has no body. This is the ultimate teaching of our school.
We monks have no set path. If we have partiality then we’ve strayed. We just impartially sit in the mud. Delusive speech, sight, and hearing all come from the mind’s intentions.’ (Zen’s Chinese Heritage)

Well, if ‘the Dharma body has no body’, who is it that is sitting in the mud?

Shohaku Okumura

‘Saying all living beings – dogs, cats, plants, flowers – are living in Zen doesn’t mean they abide in meditation or samadhi, but rather that they are living the reality of life as it is, or tathata in Sanskrit. Everything lives in the reality of life, in Zen; but only human beings have to make a conscious effort to do so… Because of our doubts and delusions we cannot simply live in reality.’ (Living By Vow)