Koun Ejo

‘To inhale or to exhale, to listen or to touch, being without thoughts and discrimination is nothing other than the tranquil illumination of the Light in which body and mind are one.  Therefore, when someone calls, you answer.  This is the Light in which ordinary people and sages, the deluded and the enlightened, are one.’ (Komyozo-Zanmai)

Here We Are

There has been a heat wave this past week in San Francisco. That’s unusual enough for August, when we expect the fog to dominate, but the intense thunder storms that rolled through early Sunday morning and roiled for a day or so are even more so. And of course, lightning strikes bring fire, so by Wednesday morning the air was streaked with smoke. The times being what they are, it feels like portents for an apocalypse.

We have been here before, of course. No-one in the Bay Area has forgotten the smoky skies of recent years. We know there is more to come. The pandemic continues with no end in sight. Perhaps there is a glimmer of hope about the upcoming US elections, but there is no guarantee that it will not devolve into anarchy and civil unrest.

Our practice encourages accepting the reality of the present moment – and there is liberation in not struggling against reality – but that acceptance, and the resilience to move forward, is not the same as acquiescence. We do what we can to promote well-being and diminish suffering, in whatever arena we found ourselves in.

I decided to ride early on Sunday, thinking the storm had mostly passed through – and ended up with thunder swirling around and getting pretty wet.
The skies were pretty spectacular throughout the ride
A wan sunrise on Wednesday morning’s ride
I had to ride up through layers of smoke in Visitacion Valley to get to the clearer air on top of San Bruno Mountain

Shohaku Okumura

‘Originally this expression shikantaza was used not by Dogen himself but by his teacher Rujing. We not only just sit – when we eat, we just eat; when we work in the kitchen we just cook; when we clean, we just clean; when we chant, we just chant.
This attitude of “just” is the answer Dogen discovered through seeing the two virtues of mountains and waters. It means the reality of all beings: abiding peacefully in their dharma positions and also constantly walking. These are the contradictory aspects of one reality. When we see both sides of our life, what can we do? What kind of attitude should we maintain toward our lives? The answer is to be just attentive and put our whole energy into whatever we are doing right now. When we are sitting in the zendo, we just sit, one hundred percent there, nothing else.’ (The Mountains and Waters Sutra)

Dale S. Wright

‘Wisdom, therefore, is the ability to face the truth and not to be unnerved or frightened. It is the capacity to be disillusioned, but not disheartened. It is the ability to consider the contingency and groundlessness of all things, oneself included, and not turn away from that consideration in fear. Wisdom means setting aside illusions about oneself and the world and being strengthened by that encounter with the truth. It entails willingness to avoid seeking the security of the unchanging and to open oneself to a world of flux and complex relations’ (The Six Perfections)

There does seem to be an increasing divide between those who are willing to open themselves up to change and complexity, and those who shrink from them.

Daito Kokushi

‘After my departure, some of you may preside over fine temples in prosperous conditions, with towers and halls and holy books all decorated in gold and silver, and devotees may noisily crowd into the grounds; some may pass hours in reading the sutras and reciting the dharanis, and sitting long in contemplation may not give themselves up to sleep; they may, eating once a day and observing the fast-days, and, throughout the six periods of the day, practice all the religious deeds. Even when they are thus devoted to the cause, if their thoughts are not really dwelling on the mysterious and untransmissible Way of the Buddhas and Patriarchs, they may yet come to ignore the law of causation, ending in demise of the true practice. All such belong to the family of evil spirits; however long my departure from the world may be, they are not to be called my descendants. Let, however, there be just one individual, who may be living in the wilderness in a hut thatched with one bundle of straw and passing his days by eating the roots of wild herbs cooked in a pot with broken legs; but if he single-mindedly applies himself to the study of his own affairs, he is the very one who has a daily interview with me and knows how to be grateful for his life. Who should ever despise such a one?’ (Admonition)

What are you paying attention to?

Barbara Kingsolver

Rent a house near the beach, or a cabin
but: Do not take your walking shoes.
Don’t take any clothes you’d wear
anyplace anyone would see you.
Don’t take your rechargeables.
Take Scrabble if you have to,
but not a dictionary and no
pencils for keeping score.
Don’t take a cookbook
or anything to cook.
A fishing pole, ok
but not the line,
hook, sinker,
leave it all.
Find out
what’s
left.

Lama Rod Owens

‘A spiritual path is where we are working to transform what is difficult or burdensome into wisdom or clarity, which invites us into the experience of freedom. Any path of transformation requires two kinds of offering. The first offering is material to work with to transform, and the second offering is the method or practice to transform this material to wisdom. This is called the path. The fuel that drives this work is our aspiration to transcend into something more meaningful, less violent, and more loving.’ (Love And Rage)

Another take on yesterday’s notion.

Soko Morinaga

‘Information collected on the subject of religion is worthless. Religion is, to the very end, something you must verify for yourself through actual practice.’ (Novice To Master)

I won’t get into quibbling about whether our practice qualifies as a religion, as it is clear what he means. Now get out there and verify!

Suzuki Roshi

‘So through group practice you find out how to know your own way. For example, Buddhist ceremonies are too complicated to do perfectly and so in our observance of them we can see our own way and not just the way of the ceremony. And in learning to accommodate ourselves to the practice of others and to our teachers, we will find out how to communicate with others and with all worlds and their various Buddhas. This is not just verbal communication. It is more direct than that. It is person to person and beyond any specific way. This is known as the Bodhisattva’s way.’ (from a WindBell article, via Cuke.com)

 

Dogen

‘A monk asked Zhaozhou, Great Master Zhenji, “Does a dog have buddha nature?”
Clarify the meaning of this question. A dog is a dog. It is not that this monk was asking whether a dog has buddha nature or not. He was asking whether an iron person still practices the way’ (Shobogenzo Bussho)

Where else would you expect to find buddha nature? What do you think this looked like to the monk?