Suzuki Roshi

‘Student: Docho Roshi, for my practice, I believe that the hardest and deepest teaching of Buddhism for all men is to know not to be attached to any thing. Can you explain why this is so?

SR: Not to attach to any thing, we say. Why you asked this question is, you know, it is impossible not to attach [laughs] to anything. So it means that in your mind you have the idea of attachment and detachment. But true non-attachment means to get free from the idea of attachment or detachment, knowing that attachment and detachment is the two side of one reality.’ (Shosan ceremony exchange, from the Suzuki Roshi archives)


Walking into the distance, traveling since your youth
Crossing so many rivers, climbing so many peaks
Until one day you find the road to your old home
And finally you realize how long a trip it’s been.

So, Which Is It?

‘When my teacher, Soyen Shaku, was twenty-nine years old, he went to Ceylon, and stayed there for three years. On his way home, he took a steamer from Singapore to Siam. He was very poor, and barely had enough money to be a deck passenger. He was hungry, and suffered from thirst. Nobody knew the penniless monk. The tropical heat roasted his small body. The ship had to moor at the mouth of the Monam River on account of low tide. In the evening, the sky was filled with black clouds. There was no rain, no wind, just heavy threatening atmospheric pressure. The monk was bathed in his own sweat. Then came an army of mosquitoes. They attacked him from the front, from the back, and from both sides. In vain the poor monk tried to protect himself.
He knew how to master the situation. He took off his clothes and sat in the corner of the deck, were the ship’s lamp scarcely sent its light. He meant to feed the mosquitoes to their hearts’ content while he was sitting in meditation. It took him more than an hour to enter samadhi. In the beginning he heard the voices of the mosquitoes, but before long, his body was gone, all his senses were gone. Nothing in front and nothing in back. No more hunger, no more thirst. No heat, no cold. He was a truly dead man. Then a thunderstorm woke him, and a tropical shower washed him thoroughly. He heard the temple bell of Bangkok calling the dawn, and he smiled to himself, realizing that Buddha Shakyamuni and Bodhidharma had not cheated him at all. When he looked down he saw some wild berries scattered around him. Berries? No, they were mosquitoes, stuffed with his blood.
Fellow students, Zen never forces you to do a heroic deed, but it will come naturally to you when you find yourself in the middle of such a situation.’ (Nyogen Senzaki – Eloquent Silence)

‘”Hate is not conquered by hate: hate is conquered by love. This is a law eternal.” Surely this is the final and decisive thing that everybody cannot easily do. In human relations, we say “it’s a dog-eat-dog world.” Human beings have eternal discord and often begin to fight, even when they are working for peace. This is not an easy matter.
For instance, a mosquito alights on my body and starts to suck my blood. Do I watch it silently saying, “Hate is not conquered by hate: hate is conquered by love. This is a law eternal”? I am not such a stupid person. I will immediately squash it.
This is the reality of my self. And yet, even though I am such a person, is it certain that I will always behave in the same way? I don’t think so. It is not necessarily certain. For example, when I determine to do something for the sake of all living beings, I might even throw my body away. We cannot say it is impossible. This depends on the depth of my own heart for all living beings at the time.’ (Kosho Uchiyama – Genjo Koan, Three Commentaries)

So what would you do? Can you say?


‘A monk asked, “I am chaotically adrift and drowning; how can I get out of it?”
The master just sat motionless.
The monk said, “I’m asking you sincerely.”
The master said, “Where are you ‘adrift and drowning’?”‘(The Recorded Sayings of Zen Master Joshu)

Kobun Chino

‘If you say that you can only take care of what’s inside of your skin, and what’s outside of your skin is someone else’s problem, that doesn’t work. Your external body, limitlessly opened, is the larger part of your body, actually. The inside of your skin is a very small part. It’s a landmark, where your mind is resting. Whatever exists externally is all included in your being. It doesn’t matter if it appears to be pleasant or unpleasant. The question is how to see each being in its essential nature, not how it appears and not how it should change. This may be just your temporary perception, so you have to be very clear about what exists, not how it should be.’ (Embracing Mind)

I read this as Kobun’s exposition on Dogen’s (or Changsha’s) ‘The entire world of the ten directions is the radiant light of the self.’

Rain and Rainbows

I don’t mind the quirks of the calendar that have me going up to Wilbur only a couple of weekends after my previous visit – except for having to lean on my friends and benefactors more regularly for use of a car…
Looking at the forecast for the weekend, I packed for the rain rather than the cold, and it was drizzly as I made my way north. I was glad to have got ahead of the rain by the time I arrived. I had already decided not to run – having been out on a long hilly run in the city on Wednesday – and since it was ten degrees colder at Wilbur than in San Francisco, and the rain set in just after I arrived, I was glad to linger in the hot plunges instead.
Watching the drops bounce off the water, I remembered a time from a couple of years ago, and it occurred to me that much of the spaciousness I feel when I settle comes only after I have quelled my initial impulse to move on to the next thing (one reason I am glad that someone else was in charge of timing zazen for most of my years of practice).
The rain got heavier as the evening wore on, and I heard later that it ended up falling as snow, as it apparently had earlier in the week. In the morning there were bright clouds, passing from orange to cream before the sun came up. I didn’t jump up to take pictures when I saw it all forming – since discontinuing my Tumblr, I have noticed that I have less of an impulse to take pictures of everything. When there was a rainbow visible after John’s lovely tai chi class, though, I did grab my camera and walked a little way down to a place I had thought of photographing the busy creek, close to the gate.
After that bright interlude, there was rapidly changing blue sky and rain for the rest of the day, mostly rain, and it never got above fifty degrees. Considering that, I was happy with the number of people who came and sat; the heating on the yoga deck did not make much difference with a cold north wind blowing through the plastic sheeting.
The storm had been supposed to continue through to Sunday, but the day started clear as if it had blown itself out. Temperatures stretched in each direction – below freezing, first thing, and while the ground temperature may not have been warmer, the sun felt good for much of the day, even if the wind was still keen.
After the last of the sits, I did run, up the boggy smelter trail, and on to the ridge for the hard climbs along the spine of the ridge, in the sun and wind. Having been getting the Coyote Peak route in my body on recent visits, I hadn’t been this way for a few months, and enjoyed the views of the mountains, the valley sides, snow to the north, and the grain silos in the wide plain. As I started to make my way off the ridge, I was quite surprised to see someone running the other way. Considering how much climbing he had just done, he looked very strong; I checked he knew where he was going, which he said he kind of did, and continued my way down to the wind chimes and the long valley return. I did see him at the baths a while later, which was good, though he said he had had to bushwhack a little, which made me wonder where he had turned.
Not for the first time, I had to pour hot water on the windscreen and windows before I left, first thing on Monday morning, to melt the frost on the glass. When I got back to the city, it felt cold there as well, especially during our lunchtime sit, with the sun disappearing for most of the hour. And now another atmospheric river is apparently on its way…

Sun and raindrops looking downcreek…

.. Must mean a rainbow in the other direction.

Bright morning sun on Sunday.

Frank likes the sun, his breakfast, and his scratching post.

Kosho Uchiyama

‘How can we determine if we are in the present moment? There is no fixed criterion to measure this because it is never hidden or revealed. At any moment, the present moment is the present moment without fail. Therefore, in our lives, the present moment is the present moment anytime and anywhere. However, if we say that the present moment has become the present moment, it is too much because it is already in the past. At the point it is not the present moment anymore. If we say the present moment will become the present moment, it is not sufficient because it is still in the future. At that point, the present moment has not yet become the present moment. In whatever situation, the present moment is the present moment. And yet, it is possible to lose sight of the present moment. At that time the present moment is no longer the present moment for us.’ (Genjo Koan, Three Commentaries)

So how is this moment for you? How about now?

Dawa Tarchin Phillips

‘If you’re just looking to confirm what you’re already thinking about people and the world, the Buddha’s teachings might not be the right place for you. It’s the job of the Buddha’s teachings to challenge assumptions and show you that you have a limited perspective if you think you’re the only one in the right. ‘ (from Lion’s Roar)

You may have noticed that I have posted three quotes from this article in the past week – it is because I found some wonderful pieces of wisdom there, and I have found these to be deeply illuminating in the current debate in Buddhist circles about how to deal with current levels of partisanship and division in our communities.


Now I have a single robe,
Not made of gauze or of figured silk.
Do you know what colour it is?
Not crimson, nor purple either.
Summer days I wear it as a cloak,
In winter it serves as a quilt.
Summer and winter in turn I use it;
Year after year, only this.

Rev. angel Kyodo williams

‘I don’t think taking sides suggests that we negate the humanity of everyone else’s position. We take sides and we understand that we must take care of the whole.

We take sides in a way that doesn’t take sides. We take sides in a way that doesn’t separate. It distinguishes and it discerns, but it doesn’t negate or erase. I think this is a very important aspect of what the dharma can bring to the Western constructs that live inside of dichotomies. Much of the time it’s either me or you. Even “take sides” sounds from our Western perspective like I’m seeing only my side. It’s hard for us to see the nonbinary nature of taking sides in which it is actually a wholeness, not a separation.

We find our wholeness in our firm and clear locating of ourselves on the side of love. In locating ourselves on the side of love, we become more whole. It’s a yes, rather than a no. Taking sides is a yes to love, rather than a no to you.’ (from Lion’s Roar)

I remember having the thought (which for some reason came with the image of a windscreen wiper going back and forth) that there is the yes of yes-and-no, and the yes that covers both sides; I think this is in line with what Reverend angel is saying.