Ananda Claude Dalenberg

‘I am trying to follow the Bodhisattva’s vow. Being a Bodhisattva is quite a different order. The Bodhisattva’s vow is kind of an eternal vow. No matter how numberless sentient beings are, and so forth. So for me it means, if I’m on the wrong track then I have to start over again. In the Bodhisattva’s vow if you make a mistake, a big one or a small one, you just face up to it and start over again, whenever you’re able.’ (from Wind Bell)

Claude Dalenberg was one of the stalwarts of the early days at Zen Center (and, I have a feeling, the person responsible for some of the messed-up recordings in the archive). Here he is expressing himself in a fascinating issue of the Wind Bell that focused on the city sangha as it started to feel at home at Page Street.

Katagiri Roshi

‘Constantly try to realize the depth of human life. Accept the fact that whatever you do, wherever you live, under all circumstances, you have a chance to realize the truth. With sincerity, try to realize the ultimate nature of your actions: bowing, studying, talking, or whatever it is that you do. When you bow in gassho, just do gassho through and through. If you really do this, you can touch the ultimate truth. Then through gassho you learn something. By the thoroughgoing practice of gassho you return to the truth, and simultaneously gassho rebounds in the form of your human life. Maybe you don’t understand this now, but that gassho helps people and deepens and enhances your life.’ (Each Moment is the Universe)

This expresses the essence of temple practice for me: you get a chance to live in circumstances where there is the space and the understanding to try this out. As Katagiri mentions elsewhere, sometimes you start by needing to know why; why do we have to bow, what is the purpose, the significance of this action, of this form, of this guideline? But, by gently allowing you to continue doing it when it is the moment to do it, temple life allows the question to melt away and be replaced by attentive action. And this attentive action does help people, and that help also reflects back to you – this is what Dogen called jijuyu zanmai. The opportunity is not limited to temple actions – how can you make this happen in your life actions today? (Reposted from a few years ago, with a new appreciation for the phrase “through and through,” which Suzuki Roshi used a lot)

Keizan Jokin

‘Though you should not begrudge anyone the dharma, do not preach it unless you are asked. Even if someone asks, keep silent three times; if the person still asks you from his or her heart, then teach him or her. Out of ten times you may desire to speak, remain silent for nine; as if mold were growing around your mouth. Be like a folded fan in December, or like a wind-bell hanging in the air, indifferent to the direction of the wind. This is how a person of the Way should be. Do not use the dharma to profit at the expense of others. Do not use the way as a means to make yourself important. These are the most important points to keep in mind.’ (Zazen Yojinki)

Oh well. I shall try harder to be like a folded fan in December.

Hongzhi

‘Although empty of desires, with deliberations cut off, transcendent comprehension is not all sealed up. Perfect bright understanding is carefree amid ten thousand images and cannot be confused. Within each dust mote is vast abundance. ‘ (Cultivating the Empty Field)

Sometimes you need something like this to start the week.

Linji

The continuous flow of thoughts in the mind does not stop, what can you do about it?
True boundless awareness can be said to resemble It.
Beyond name and form, people cannot realize It.
After splitting a hair, hone the sword at once!

On The East Coast

The enforced slowdown caused by my damaged wrist certainly clashed with the amount of things I wanted to get done before I left on my trip. In the end, I put aside just about everything that was not essential (at least in my eyes), and thus managed to do everything that was – not least cleaning my place for the friends who would stay a few nights while I was away.

This slowness also made Manhattan an interesting first stop. I had an early start to the day, but since my whole arm was aching at night (and still is, even as I get more strength and mobility back in my hand), I was awake well before my alarm.

This first leg went very smoothly, and I arrived in a hot and humid Newark afternoon. The walk from Penn station to my hotel (chosen for its relative proximity) felt like hard work under the circumstances. I showered and went for an early dinner. Few people were sitting outside because of the temperatures, but I have decided to be incredibly cautious so that I don’t have to spend part of the trip in quarantine and have to miss a few visits. There was great people-watching from my sidewalk table. I marveled in the energy of New York, so different to San Francisco, ate well, and then decided that a walk along the riverside would be nice, not least for the breeze.

It turned out that I hit upon a glorious sunset, and having decided to walk down as far as 34th Ave, discovered it was a sunset that shone straight up the street. Crowds lingered in the crosswalks to get iconic pictures.

I was also awake extremely early the next morning, and after it got light I strolled around – the traffic was already heavy on some streets, but others were quiet. Eventually the cafes were open, and then I went back and got caught up in the Alpe d’Huez stage of the Tour de France. Which meant that I got to Penn Station to catch my train, I realised that I had left my main camera battery and charger in my hotel room – though when I called they said that nothing had been found.

So with my spare battery only, I figured I would have to be pretty judicious with how many pictures I could take over the course of the gathering – no bad thing really – until I could get back to the city and try to get a new one.

The train was packed, but I enjoyed the unfolding scenery of the Hudson Valley. I did not spot any other Gen X attendees anywhere – unlike in 2015, where a group of us had coalesced for the train to a place that I realised was not so far away, but on the other side of the river. So when I got off, seeing no friends or any assistance, I took a taxi.

The driver had never been up the drive to the Dharma Center; I was encouraged that several people waved at us as we pulled up. The scene could not have been more different to New York: a tranquil location, surrounded by people I had mostly met before, with no rush, and a sense of groundedness about everything.

We have had discussions and inquiries about how we have been practicing through the pandemic, the shifts we have noticed and where we might be heading as Buddhist teachers. The weather got a little more gentle after the day we arrived, and we have had cloudscapes, sunsets and an almost full moon. I have been woken up rolls of distant thunder and by a startlingly loud dawn chorus outside. Yesterday, eating breakfast outside, the combination of early warm sun and still cool air reminded me movingly of summer mornings in Cornwall. I feel deeply nourished.

The sunset light along 34th St
Looking back to the river.
This picture sums up New York engergy for me.
The latter part of the sunset.
A different scene at the dharma centre.
Early morning view in the other direction.
Another sunset on a warm still evening.

Gil Fronsdal

‘There’s a very wounded side of self in this culture. Even among privileged people there’s a lot of self-criticism; there’s a whole industry of self-help books that have to do with an inner critic, and all these people who feel so unsafe and who are demanding safety. There is a way of over-caring for people who are stuck in a certain mindset: rather than pulling the rug out from under them, we put bandages around them and prop them up. The self-esteem movement has turned out to be a disaster. Because people don’t have enough self-esteem, they feel they have to build up self-esteem, and this creates people who are more fragile and who feel they are deserving of being treated in certain ways. So in some Western Dharma teaching, the rhetoric seems to be supporting the existence of an unhealthy sense of self.’ (from The Dewdrop)

This is a subtle point, and something that comes up in conversation with fellow priests. Of course we want to be caring and supportive and for everyone to feel safe, heard, and met, and I do agree that there are times when pulling the rug out – which is the traditional Zen way of breaking the exoskeleton of the ego – might be the most appropriate response.

Dale S. Wright

‘It is not at all clear that methods useful to discover the principles behind other aspects of ourselves and our world will be applicable in the case of consciousness. The difficulty of these issues becomes clear when we recognize that the kinds of introspective awareness that show us consciousness are very different from the “extrospective” tools of scientific analysis. No amount of brain research has given us access to consciousness as it manifests internally to each one of us. In fact, knowing everything that we know about the brain would never lead us to posit consciousness as its product if we were not simultaneously aware of consciousness from the inside of experience. Scientists can test and analyze evidence of consciousness in many ways, but can never see consciousness itself from the outside. The gap between internal and external views of consciousness is, at least so far, an unbridgeable one.’ (The Six Perfections)

And these days I tend to think of this as a good thing; that we should be a little humble about this not-knowing, and also how this not-knowing could inform our place in the order of things.

Chenxing Han

‘Here are some shifts I’d like to see in the future of American Buddhism:

From hubris to humility: fixating less on expertise and celebrity and focusing more on an honest acknowledgement of our blind spots in order to examine the ways we (intentionally or otherwise) harm others through our actions, speech, and thoughts.

From assumptions to curiosity: suspending our stereotypes to make room for questions and deep listening.

From narrowness to diversity: getting outside our limited experiences and viewpoints to meet and learn from those who are, too often, after- thoughts in our Buddhist circles.

From enclaves to interconnections: moving past our tendency to stick with those who are similar to us (and to alienate those who aren’t) so as to build communities that honor differences and cultivate empathy.

From two Buddhisms to intersectional Buddhism: because why constrain ourselves to simplistic dualities when a vast kaleidoscope of possibilities remain unexplored before us?’ (from Lion’s Roar)

I was sent this article recently. I knew I had read it before, and it was good to be reminded of historic obsctacles to appreciating all aspects of how Buddhism has spread in the west. I expect many of our conversations at the Gen X teachers conference this week will touch on these topics.

Tahui

‘By keeping mindful of the matter of birth and death, your mental technique is already correct. Once the mental technique is correct, then you won’t need to use effort to clear your mind as you respond to circumstances in your daily activities. When you don’t actively try to clear out your mind, then you won’t go wrong; since you don’t go wrong, correct mindfulness stands out alone. When correct mindfulness stands out alone, inner truth adapts to phenomena; when inner truth adapts to events and things, events and things come to fuse with their inner truth. When phenomena fuse with their inner truth, you save power; when you feel the saving, this is the empowerment of studying the Path. In gaining power you save unlimited power; in saving power you gain unlimited power.’ (Swampland Flowers)

The time, and the expression, is different, but I think he is saying the same thing as Shinshu’s post from yesterday.