‘It wasn’t until I officiated my first Jukai ceremony—lay initiation for students—that living a life of vows came into full view. It wasn’t about me, name or no name. Through tears, I saw my black students move with so much courage, hand in hand, heart to heart, enacting and embodying liberation through vows. Not liberation from something, but liberation into being the body of nature, being the earth, that they are.
It was difficult to stop crying during the ceremony as I said these words: “Abiding according to the ten grave precepts, even after realizing buddhahood, will you continuously observe them?” To which the initiates replied: “Yes, I will.” Hearing their devotion to awakening, I was deeply moved to stand at the gate and usher in those who want to live free, filled with love, and be protected from harm in doing so. The gateway need not be Zen or Buddhist; it can be any gateway of freedom that emerges in one’s life. Whatever you are devoted to is what you are living as your vow. Devotion means “of vow.”’ (from Lion’s Roar)
Having attended that ceremony, I can attest that it was a moving occasion.
‘Master Shui Lao asked Mazu, “What is the true meaning of the coming from the West?” Mazu then knocked him down with a kick to the chest: Shui Lao was greatly enlightened. He got up clapping his hands and laughing loudly and said, “How extraordinary! How wonderful! Instantly, on the tip of a hair, I’ve understood the root source of myriad states of concentration and countless subtle meanings.” Then he bowed and withdrew. Afterwards, he would tell the assembly, “From the time I took Mazu’s kick up until now, I haven’t stopped laughing.’ (quoted in Swampland Flowers)
‘There really is nothing at all to give you to understand, or to give you to wonder about, because each of you has your own business. When the great function appears, it does not take any effort on your part; now you are no different from the Zen masters and buddhas. It’s just that your roots of faith are shallow and thin, while your bad habits are dense and thick.
Suddenly you get all excited and go on long journeys with your bowls and bags; why do you undergo such inconvenience? What insufficiency is there in you? You are adults; who has no lot? Even when you attain understanding individually on your own, this is still not being on top of things; so you shouldn’t accept the deceptions of others or the judgments of others.’ (The Sayings of Yunmen)
‘When I am speaking about sangha, I am reminding people that when we gather together as a community of spiritual practitioners, we take on a special purpose. We are no longer an ordinary community. We are more than just blood family or an activist affinity group. We are people consenting together to help another obtain spiritual realization. No one has to like anyone. I have been in spiritual communities where there have been people I wouldn’t call a friend. However, what makes sangha important is that I can recognize that I don’t like soomeone, maybe put up some boundaries that protect our relationship from becoming violent, while focusing on my love for that person. Again, when I love, I am accepting someone and wanting them to be happy. We don’t have to like someone to love them. I think this is somuch of what makes the spiritual community important.’ (Love and Rage)
I entirely agree, and I suspect have said as much elsewhere here over the years.
‘In every photo I have of Suzuki Roshi – and I have a lot of them – he’s laughing or smiling. My teachers and my practice have never taught me not to enjoy life. The deeply seasoned teachers I’ve had the opportunity to meet have all been supportive to people who are suffering, but they have also been very playful and lighthearted.’ (The Hidden Lamp)
This is a delicate balancing act to pull off, but I trust that Suzuki Roshi – as well as Katagiri Roshi and Sojun Mel Weitsman, who Blanche also namechecks – was able to do this thanks to his long and deep practice.
‘People of the way journey through the world responding to conditions, carefree and without restraint. Like clouds finally raining, like moonlight following the current, like orchids growing in shade, like spring arising in everything, they act without mind, they respond with certainty.’ (Cultivating the Empty Field)
Cathering brought some Hongzhi into yesterday’s talk to the Hebden Bridge sangha, which was lovely to listen to, and inspired me to take the book down off my shelves again. When I checked when I had used favourite line before, a couple of Wilbur-related posts showed up, poignant reminders of pre-pandemic springs.
‘Almost exactly forty-four years ago, I went to a talk by the Korean Zen Master Seung Sahn at the Cambridge Zen Center. As a very new Zen student, I’m not sure what I was expecting, but whatever it was, it didn’t happen. He held up a cup and asked, “Is this a cup or is this not a cup?” He took a sip. And I thought, he didn’t answer the question! He held up a watch and asked, “Is this a watch or is this not a watch?” He looked at it. And I thought he didn’t answer the question!
He went on like this, hinting at one thing or another but never exactly pinning anything down, and I kept thinking he didn’t answer the question! I so thoroughly and completely did not understand what was going on that everything I knew seemed irrelevant. It suddenly hit me, with my PhD and bloated test scores and skipped grades in school, that nothing I knew was worth knowing.
I was so freaked out that I couldn’t drive home. I used the Zen center phone (cell phones were decades away) to call a friend who luckily answered and, recognizing an emergency when she heard one, showed up and walked me around the neighborhood. “I don’t know anything,” I said over and over, slashing the air with my hands. I don’t know anything.’ (from Lion’s Roar)
There was a lot in this article that had me nodding my head in agreement. Look out for another extract soon.
‘I am quite sure that we can pay for the Tassajara land, but that is not what concerns me so much. I feel a big responsibility in managing the temple and organizing our practice in that monastery. To establish right practice in America is the most important point. Although we are paying a lot of money for the land, we do not gain anything. We are not so much interested in the ownership of the land, but in practicing our way as we want to practice it. To do so, in this situation a lot of money must be paid. It can’t be helped.
The land itself belongs to heaven and earth. No one can possess it. Everything is in flowing change; nothing exists but momentarily in its present form and color. There is nothing to be possessed in this world of constant change. One thing flows into another and cannot be grasped. Before the rain stops we hear the bird; even under the heavy snow we see snowdrops and some growth coming up. In the East I saw rhubarb already. In Japan, late in the spring, we eat cucumber. In this way, everything is changing, and sometimes it is nice to feel the change of things. But if we realize what we are doing in this evanescent life, we become rather ashamed of ourselves. In this changing life, we cannot repeat the same thing again. If we miss this moment, we become older.’ (from the Suzuki Roshi archives)
I had never read this talk before, from early in 1967, after Suzuki Roshi had visited the East Coast.
‘One day Kushan approached Xuefeng. The master knew Kushan was ready, so he suddenly got up, held him tight and said, “What is it?” Opening up, Kushan was completely enlightened – he even forgot his comprehending mind and just raised his hand and waved. Xuefeng said, “Will you express some principle?” Kushan said, “How could there be any principle?” (quoted in Swampland Flowers)
These kinds of techniques are not encouraged these days…