‘Cultivating trust, we acknowledge and address our lack of control, all the ways in which our agency is limited and at times completely overshadowed by the magnitude of the reality surrounding us. Trust of this kind enables us to accept that truth. It places us in a position to move confidently in that space of inevitable uncertainty toward goals that we ourselves have chosen.’ (The Six Perfections)
These seem like apt words to round out a year where most of us will have felt our lack of control in the face of the magnitude of the reality surrounding us. Our practice helps us to continue, nevertheless. May your year ahead be guided by practice like this.
I apologise if I have shared this story before, but it came to mind the other day while I was out on my bike:
I believe it was Blanche who would tell the story, of a venerable Japanese teacher who came over to Zen Center in the earlier years, and was asked to address the assembly. He had limited English, and apparently the talk went like this (with each sentence very drawn out):
‘Today…. is not…. tomorrow.
Today… is not…. yesterday.
Today… is …. today.’
The consensus was that it was a fine talk that captured the essence of the teaching.
Happily, I am starting 2021 with three new (or newish) dharma offerings, and I hope that you will be able to tune in to one or more of them:
On Saturday 2nd, I will be giving the dharma talk at Zen Center at 10:00 am PST. It will be available via the online zendo. This will be my first talk for Zen Center in a shade over a year, and I am still thinking of exactly what I want to say.
The following evening at 7:00 pm PST, I will be offering a guided meditation for Core on the Chalk app; I love the intimacy of doing an audio-only talk, and this one wiill probably be focusing on ‘new beginnings.’
On Wednesday evening, at 6:00 pm PST, I will be making my debut for Within Meditation, with an online, somewhat guided, sit.
Just to make the post a little more pretty, here are a couple of pictures from the bike rides I took over the holidays.
‘Beginners often ask me about their problems; however, it is very difficult for me to be of any help to them. Neither a short nor a complicated answer to peoples’ questions is really helpful. It is all right to ask me questions, but it is not enough. One must experiment for oneself and then one will understand. After reading a book on the subject of swimming one must get in the water and find out about it first hand. A book cannot give one the experience.’ (The Way of Zazen)
How can white reed flowers covered in snow be defiled by dust?
Who knows that there are many people on the pure earth?
A single plum flower in the cold,
with fragrant heart blossoming,
Calls for the arising of spring in the emptiness in the pot of ages.
‘When we teach zazen we often show a photo of an austere Zen monk sitting zazen with upright posture. We begin by saying, “This is a model for zazen. You should sit like this…” I usually show a photo of an infant sitting on the floor. Here is a photo of an eleven-month-old baby. I think we can learn a lot about zazen posture from this photo. According to Zen master Dogen, sitting upright with proper posture (shoshin tanza in Japanese) is the A to Z of zazen. Breath and mind will naturally be regulated by establishing proper zazen posture.
Please notice that this baby shows no sign of contrivance or pretentiousness. We do not see any strain or lack of naturalness. The baby does not seem to be thinking, “I should keep my back straight!” “I must not move!” “If I sit nicely, I will be praised.” He is effortlessly sitting comfortably. To borrow Dogen’s phrase, he sits “with no need for any expenditure of either physical or mental effort” (Shobogenzo Shoji). Nevertheless he is sitting firmly grounded on the floor so that his upper body stands up beautifully and freely, extending in the direction of gravity. He does this because his posture has spontaneously emerged from within as katadori (form), and not as katachi (shape) forcibly imposed from the outside.’ (from the Soto Zen Journal)
‘The life we live is not necessarily what we have studied or discussed. This conceptual, knowledge-based self is nothing but a game of created self-consciousness, an image of ignorance, so to speak. Life has to be freed and lived, instead of being known. Knowing never satisfies, although knowing is one of our major intellectual functions. It’s as if you say, “Oh, I got it,” and then go to sleep.’ (Embracing Mind)
I know this is not exactly a seasonal post. I was reflecting on how, at Zen Center, there was discussion most years about how Buddhists ought to celebrate the 25th – it was observed as a holiday, with more flourishes than those for Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. I was always grateful for any break in the schedule. Today I can also celebrate 1900 posts on this site. I hope you have a relaxing day, as I intend to.
‘Someone said Buddhism is like a toothache. When you are attracted by Buddhism, you go to the temple, listen to the monks lecture, give up your pleasure and time, buy books and bring them home, read them without sleeping, spend your life – ten, fifteen, twenty years – and in the end realize, “I was all right in the beginning; there was nothing to gain.” Well, the toothache is over, isn’t it? When the tooth is aching, you run amok. But when the pain is removed, you just smile to yourself and say, “It’s over.” I feel the same way. I went through terrific agony studying Zen. I lost everything I had, and I gained nothing. But this gained nothing is wonderful, and I am satisfied.’ (Zen Pivots)
Reading this passage again, I knew I had posted it before, but it seemed too good to pass up for another airing.
‘Can we listen in a deep way in a moment of silence and stillness? Or is the mind preoccupied with the 10,000 worries of this world, of our life, of our family? Can we realize right now that a mind that is occupied with itself cannot listen freely? This is not said in judgment—it is a fact. It’s impossible for me to hear someone else while I’m worrying about myself. Birdcalls and the songs of the breeze do not exist when the mind is full of itself. This is within the experience of all of us. So, can the mind put its problems aside for one moment and listen freshly? This moment! Are we listening together? The caw of the crows, the quiet hum of a plane, a dog’s barking, or whatever sounds are alive where you are listening right now.’ (The Simple Presence of Attention)
This could perhaps serve as a rejoinder to yesterday’s post.