‘I don’t want to go down the neurophysiology rabbit hole—there’s a huge body of literature by people far more qualified than I am—but the fact is that we construct our world out of all these electrical impulses and chemical reactions and cellular processes and imperceptible (to us) movements constrained by perceptual limitations (infrared, ultraviolet, infrasound, ultrasound, and so on), not to mention the basic mental categories we fit everything into—object/action, time/space, life/death, and so on. And guess what? The Buddha and his henchmen/women were quite aware of all this, even though they didn’t have the cognitive categories of electrical impulses and chemical reactions and cellular processes. Whatever philosophical framework they used, they still knew that however we thought things were, they weren’t. They knew that we are always making everything up.’ (from Lion’s Roar)
‘When we face the mirror of zazen, our minds tend to face ourselves as objects first – our skin color, age, gender, sexual orientation – all the ways we are embodied and move in the world. We begin to unfold stories about “I.” If we are willing to look long enough in the mirror of zazen, past seeing ourselves as objects, we have the possibility to see that we are nature itself – we are born and will die, just as the trees, flowers, and animals in the wild do. And sometimes, in zazen, we can see that the mirror is clear. There are no clouds, no dust. The human condition is set aside. I am not old, middle-aged, or young. I am fulfilled in my own spirit. And in this recognition I feel the connection to my ancestors, to those who came before me, or to a life larger than my own. I am returned to an open field in which there are many possibilities.’ (The Hidden Lamp)
‘This is always the measure of mindful practice—whether we can create the conditions for love and peace in circumstances that are difficult, whether we can stop resisting and surrender, working with what we have, where we are.’
‘Equanimity is awareness so spacious that whatever arises in our mind and heart, whether agreeable or disagreeable, is small and incidental compared to awareness itself. In other words, when we are equanimous, nothing is left out of heart’s view’ (from Lion’s Roar)
‘Spiritual discipline is best conceived not as the repression of the energy of desire, but rather as its reorientation. The point of ascetic discipline that works against certain desires is gradually to learn the freedom of mastery, the freedom to choose among desires and to shape them, thus avoiding both harmful desires and detrimental relations to desires such as enslavement or addiction. Discipline regulates desire, channels and cultivates it, so that what we choose – life in pursuit of excellence – is actualized over against what would have occurred had we followed the desires that originally motivated our activity.
Those skilled in practices of mindfulness and in the discipline of character know how to assess desires. They consciously evaluate and rank desires, and when some of them are out of accord with chosen purposes – a “thought of enlightenment” – they also know how to extinguish them.’ (The Six Perfections)
‘Once you’ve been taught a good posture, you feel gratitude and spontaneously do gassho. You feel good and want to sit in zazen, but if your posture is bad, your mood is as well.’ (Commentary on The Song Of Awakening)
I might add, and vice versa. Many times, when my mood was bad, my posture in zazen was not upright…
It seems that the mountain spring wind
Has begun to blow -
On the peaks and in the valleys,
Myriad flowers are shining.
Trusting WordPress to have done its sums right, this marks the 2000th post of this blog. It seems appropriate to have Dogen mark the occasion with one of the waka poems from the book compiled by Shohaku Okumura a few years ago, which I was lucky enough to be able to buy when he visited Tassajara to speak about the poems when the book was released.
As I have said before, compiling this blog is good practice for me, encouraging me to read widely. It feels great to share meaningful pieces every day, and little snippets about my life sometimes, and I hope it is beneficial for you as well. Thanks for being a part of this creation over the past five and a half years. I think I will keep going…
‘So even [if] you practice hard, your zazen sometime will be good, sometime will not be so good. It is– actually it is not always in the same– we cannot practice our way in the same way always. The purpose of zazen is not to think about it. To catch ourselves in its full function is zazen. If so, there is no need to think about it. If you think about it, you cannot– you will lose it. When you don’t think and [are] involved in the practice fully, you have zazen.
Even it is so, we have to prepare everything one by one carefully. That is our everyday life. When you wash your face you should wash your face carefully. When you walk you should walk carefully. One by one you take care of your activity. But when you are taking care of your activity, you are involved in something which is– which cannot be grasped. You are not anymore you.’ (from the Suzuki Roshi Archives)
Another talk from an early sesshin at Tassajara, with Suzuki Roshi encouraging his students to go deeper than they probably ever had before.