‘I’m trying to get people to go to that nothing place. That place where we don’t go. They never go. That zero place. Where we aren’t going anywhere. There is actually nowhere to go but we are always running. Running. Trying. Efforting. And when we are honest enough to face reality for the first time, we think there will be a barrier. And that barrier drops. And we see that we don’t need to be afraid. We are connected always. We are never alone. It is impossible to be alone. Impossible to be unloved.
And when we stop reaching, doing, really stop, something else happens. Something else is allowed space. Something else. Like a wave from nowhere emerges. It’s confusing. It’s unexpected. We stop. Stop, stop. And something happens that is not us, the normal us, not us making it happen. Something flourishes that is not about us trying to flourish. We see then that our value is not based on our effort. Our existence is not based on us manipulating or controlling or fighting or proving our worth. For the first time we see that something is there and never goes away. Something will never die. Something is not born. Something bigger than us, more interesting than us, shines.’ (from Zen Embodiment)
‘By not solidifying them into a cause. And not blaming. Then you can work with the completely open-ended feeling that leaves you with. And then – when you’re willing not to get into this mentality of “me and them” or “us and them” – then you’re in a position where you can really speak out and try to have things that are harmful not happen. But as long as you consider the other the enemy, it’s just another way of feeding your ego.’ (Meetings With Remarkable Women)
‘Chewing a willow twig and washing the face is the true dharma of ancient buddhas. It should be practiced and realized by those who practice the way with way-seeking heart. If warm water is not available, use cold water, which also is an old way, ancient dharma. When warm or cold water is not available in the early morning, wipe your face thoroughly, spread fragrant herbs or incense powder, then bow to the Buddha, burn incense, chant sutras, and do zazen. Without washing the face, all the practices would lack authenticity.’ (Shobogenzo Semmen)
Dogen telling it like it is, again. One of the passages we have looked at in the Dogen study group, which you are welcome to join.
There’s a very fine line – in temperature terms at least – between the relatively fine weather we had in San Francisco when I returned from England, and the last ten days or so. It’s the difference between having windows wide open day and night, and just leaving them cracked when the sun is not out, with the concomitant urge to bundle up in warm things. There is the fog looming in the west, of course, spilling over the hills and along the bay, and the wind that sometimes whips up quite alarmingly.
Last Friday I officiated a very small wedding at Baker Beach. We found an excellent spot, and the view of the bridge changed moment by moment with the vagaries of the fog layer. This Friday I scheduled an extra roam, along the bay shore from the ball park to Warm Water Cove and back through the Dogpatch and Mission Bay, which was just about warm but certainly bright. This afternoon’s will be on the foggy side of town, so I imagine it will feel different, and we won’t benefit from grand views at Grand View Park.
I have been keeping busy these past three weeks, not wanting so much to be alone after such a social time away, but then as a dyed-in-the-wool introvert I also get social exhaustion, and crave a quite few hours catching up on the latest New Yorkers.
It has been an expensive time in the bicycle world as well: several hundred dollars to replace the wheel and fork from my crash, and then my road bike needed its bottom bracket replaced as well, so I was without that for a few days, and have generally not been catching up on my fitness as quickly as I would like.
Today is the last of the Suzuki Roshi classes, which I have enjoyed greatly. A little pause, and then I will focus on fleshing out the dharma talk I am due to give on the 14th, and then I will turn my attention to the Tenzo Kyokun.
‘The following October the Cambridge Buddhist Association received a visit from the Venerable Shunryu Suzuki. Suzuki Roshi was in charge of a Buddhist temple, as well as a Zen center for Westerners, in San Francisco. He had been living in the United States for about six years and had learned English and gathered together a large group of people seriously interested in meditation. I had met him in San Francisco after one of my journeys to Japan and been greatly impressed with his integrity, his goodness, and particularly his willingness to work out ways of traditional Buddhist practice really suitable for contemporary Westerners. He wrote that he would he arriving on a Wednesday night, and we planned to meet him at the airport.
Tuesday afternoon we returned to Cambridge from Cape Cod, and several of us set to work housecleaning. That evening the library cum meditation room was in the process of being scrubbed down when the doorbell rang. My husband climbed down a ladder and opened the front door. Suzuki Roshi was on the doorstep with a smile on his face. He was amused to find us amid preparations for his arrival. In spite of our protests, he immediately tied back his long kimono sleeves and insisted on joining in “all these preparations for the important day of my coming.” The following morning, after breakfast and a meditation session, and after I had left the house for shopping, he found himself a tall ladder, sponges, and pails. He then set to work scrubbing Cambridge grease, grime, and general pollution from the outside of the windows in the meditation room. When I returned with the groceries, I discovered him on the ladder, polishing with such undivided attention that he did not even hear my approach. He had removed his black silk kimono and was dressed only in his Japanese union suit. This is quite acceptable attire in Japan. Nevertheless, I could not help wondering how the sedate Cambridge ladies in the adjoining apartment house would react to the sight of a shaven-headed man in long underwear at work just outside their windows.’ (Sun Buddhas Moon Buddhas: a Zen Quest)
I have heard this story about Suzuki Roshi before, but perhapsyou haven’t.
‘Before your individual thoughts, feelings, or perceptions arise and you reflect on yourself, wondering who or what you are, something is already there. Something is already alive. What is it? We call it big self, real self, or true self, but actually it is just the vastness of existence. In Buddhist philosophy we say emptiness. When you hear the word “emptiness,” it seems to be someting fascinating, kind of a puzzle. But emptiness is not a puzzle; it is something true.’ (The Light That Shines Through Infinity)
‘I think the reason the way out of paradox eludes us is because it’s really very simple – which is just to return to the moment instead of trying to resolve it on a more conceptual or psychological level. Return that energy to being in the moment, again and again and again.’ (Meetings With Remarkable Women)
‘The only reason I didn’t quit [monastic life], was because the pain in my heart was greater than the pain in my knees. If the pain ratio had been the other way, I would have been out the door.’ (from the Zen Fields website)
‘In this practice, we are encouraged to bring everything back to ourselves – because there is nothing going on but oneself. Everything we project out onto other people we can follow backto see in ourselves, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I look outside myself, I see somebody doing something, and I put a label on it. If I am aware of projection, I will own that quality myself. Whatever that person is doing, whatever label I have given it, whatever I think it means, I bring all that back inside and admit that I know nothing about that other person, only about myself.’ (Sweet Zen)
I remember a moment at Tassajara when I saw very clearly how someone’s behaviour that I found irritating was just a reflection on parts of myself that I was uncomfortable with. A window opened, and those kinds of openings tend to last.