‘One of the most important meditation in Buddhism is contemplating the certainty of death. When we do this regularly, it helps inform our priorities on how to live. For while material considerations are important in our daily life, we need to avoid assuming that they have any greater value than this.
A helpful view of our life of leisure and fortune is to think of it like a brief stay in a luxury hotel. It’s good to enjoy the view, to make the most of the facilities, to strike up cordial relations with our fellow guests. We may have a favorite seat in the dining room, or we may talk about “my” room, but we are constantly aware that the facilities are only very temporarily ours to use. Most of us don’t suffer from a midholiday crisis on day three, thinking how it’s all going to come to an end on day five – we’re more likely to book in the jet-ski activity or beach massage, or make other plans to extract the full value from our stay. And having been mindful all along that we’re only making a short visit, we’re unlikely to burst into tears in the lobby, overcome with remorse and regret while checking out.’ (Enlightenment To Go)
I happened across this post from a few years ago when doing a search on the blog, which also brought up some lovely memories of visits to England and Tassajara just before the pandemic. If you click all the links, you might be able to spot the search term that links them all, and the post that occasioned the search!
‘Seeing the delusion of negative self-talk clearly, then having tools that support us in returning to and remembering Love, leads to liberation.
Seeing the delusion of othering clearly, then having tools and practices to undo the structures and collective forms that are born out of this distortion, allows us to create new collective forms that are reflections of truth.
Through new forms we more freely return to a collective experience of Love.
This is true of any distorted views that lead to domination. As the writer and activist bell hooks reminds us, “The practice of love is the most powerful antidote to the politics of domination.”
You can only dominate something you see as other than you: domination of the earth, domination over women in the structure of patriarchy, domination of people with disabilities, domination of children. Domination arises out of othering but wears a dirtier outfit. All distortions have the potential to lead to domination. All distortions represent a felt sense of separateness taking form.
We must begin by seeing the distortion. Then we can be creative, forming pathways that return us to Love, to the truth of our shared being. In the same way that at the monastery I learned that I could consciously choose the tools I’d been given rather than feeling completely victimized by the voice in my head, we can collectively turn to the remembrance of the truth of our shared being. As a practice, we can return.
The path to truth is Love.
What truth is found?
Love.’ (The Heart Of Who We Are)
‘A way to gain a heart that accepts reality is to treat each thing with respect (mono o daiji ni suru). To be aware of the value of things requires an open and accepting heart. A person’s heart, in turn, becomes more accepting the more she sees the importance of things. To appreciate the value of something requires paying careful attention to it.’ (Bringing Zen Home)
Echoes, of course, of the words of Suzuki Roshi, which I appear to have posted only once, right at the beginning of the blog, but which I refer to frequently.
When buddhas don't appear
And their followers are gone,
The wisdom of awakening
Bursts forth by itself.
‘The name is a false name. Beneath this false name is the real body. The paramita of wisdom proclaimed by the Buddha is verbal wisdom. But from verbal wisdom arises insight wisdom, by means of which we see that all things are empty, including wisdom. Thus, the paramita of wisdom is not the paramita of wisdom.
But when we see that wisdom is empty, we see the real form of all dharmas. This is real wisdom. Thus, the Buddha calls it the paramita of wisdom.’ (commentary on the Diamond Sutra)
I might have to go back and read the entire book again to see how I find it now.
‘If you try zazen, you will quickly realize that as long as you regard knowing and the self as the same, you cannot simply accept knowing as knowing. There will inevitably be a reaction against the contents of knowing and you will end up being dragged around by this. And then, you will end up forgetting the essential effort of upright sitting because the center of your intention will shift to managing the contents of knowing. Moment to moment in our zazen, we are standing at a crossroads: will we be deepening into zazen or will we become occupied with knowing? In most cases, little by little and without being aware of it (or while being aware of it), people tend to go tottering off in the latter direction. It is through fully tasting this difficulty in zazen, that we experience over and over again the strength, the depth, and the persistence of our habit to regard knowing and the self as being the same.
However, it isn’t possible for those of us who practice zazen to stagnate there. In any case, there is nothing else we can do except to make the effort over and over again of awakening from our infatuation with knowing by retracing our steps and heading in the direction of upright sitting. When our diligence bears fruit and gradually our zazen ripens, we will be able to distinguish between the condition of knowing and that of non-knowing (the totality of zazen equals the true nature of the self).
Then, upright sitting and knowing will no longer get involved in the habitual entanglements and confrontations and knowing will become of use to upright sitting. Actually, the root of the problem is not knowing itself, but rather the attitude we have toward knowing and the manner we deal with it. When this changes, then we are no longer disconcerted or manipulated by knowing. Rather, we will be able to use knowing as a key for regulating the body, breath, and mind, and in this way effectively make use of it in zazen. Furthermore, knowing will be an indispensable part of zazen that will merge and unite with it. In this way, knowing is fully integrated with zazen and it becomes zazen’s knowing (the knowing of “the actualization in nonthinking”) and then a new development will occur in knowing itself.’ (Polishing A Tile)
‘Contemplative practices that do not directly address the relationship between trauma and identity run the risk of doing the greatest harm in diverse populations… because the experience and impact of oppression is an embodied experience. The way people experience their identities in society will have great bearing on whether they are discriminated against, and all forms of discrimination are traumatic.
If we are to direct our awareness toward our embodied experience with love, compassion, and forgiveness, we must include the parts of ourselves that suffer in relationship to our identities as well.’ (quoted in The Heart Of Who We Are)
As I continue to think about how the teachings are going to continue to be passed on, takin on these kinds of ideas is essential.
‘So purpose of– most important point of practice is to experience things directly, one by one. And one experience should be whole universe. To experience one– one right now– to experience one right now on this moment is to experience whole world. So this is the only approach to the emptiness. This is very important point. That is why we practice.
So even though you realize things are one, that is very, you know, very, you know– kindergarten [laughs, laughter] understanding. And then you start how to treat things one by one, each different way, with full care. That is, maybe, I think your practice, you know.’ (from the Suzuki Roshi archive)
‘Anyone who has practiced Zen for a while knows that it takes some time to discover that practice is about “me.” It comes from an individual place and is not some generic thing about meditating, bowing, or walking in a certain way, nor is it working with some generic thing called “ego.” This is also true of working with the precepts.
“But I thought Zen was about letting go of ‘me,” you might say. This is true, but we can’t let go of something until we know what it is we are hanging on to. Once we know what we’re hanging on to and are able to thoroughly welcome it- in fact, be it – it will let go of us instead of the other way around.’ (Opening to Oneness)
This was the book recommended to me when I stopped at the Zen Center bookstore the other day. As it happens, my student group was talking about studying the precepts, so I could not resist picking up a new book on the subject, especially one that promises to lean into Dogen a lot.
‘In our time, many respond to the specter of complexity, relativity, and change by recoiling against the threat of “relativism.” This word and the morass of intellectual dangers that it signifies tend to evoke fear and other unhelpful reactions rather than thoughtfulness. When that happens, the two extreme positions mentioned above- blind assertions of dogmatic certainty and hopeless confessions of arbitrary relativism are common outcomes. Neither response is functional, however. Wisdom demands a more thoughtful conclusion, one that appropriates whatever elements of insight may have motivated both positions, while moving through and beyond them.
The partial truth that lends credence to the reaction of “arbitrary relativism” is that human beings are indeed finite, not unlimited in mental powers, and we do live in the midst of an always changing reality that is shifting in accordance with the complex of relations within it. Our concepts are therefore always articulated from particular points of view and always insufficient to a comprehensive and definitive grasp of what they seek to understand. But to conclude from these realizations that our concepts and decisions are therefore arbitrary is an enormously mistaken response to the issue, one that interprets the “relations” in which we stand as insurmountable barriers to understanding rather than as the very connections that make understanding possible. The dangers presented by that naive view lead some people to embrace the opposite view since, without thinking carefully, they see it as the only other option. But assertions of dogmatic certainty do not fare any better. They are equally immature attempts to avoid facing the issue directly. Merely asserting that the understanding currently most persuasive to my mind or the perspectives afforded by my culture are absolute and unconditional does not make it so, and such assertions fly in the face of substantial evidence to the contrary.’ (The Six Perfections)
I am sure I have said this before, but it is hard to open this book anywhere and not encounter strong thinking like this.