Sensei Alex Kakuyo

‘A rough translation of ‘intoku’ is, “good done in secret”.  It epitomizes the Buddhist ideal that we should do good works without expectation of reward. This is empowering because a sad fact of life is that doing the right thing is no guarantee of a good outcome.  When this happens it can be easy to think, “Why did this happen to me?” or “I don’t deserve this.”

But intoku teaches us that we don’t do good deeds in the hopes of a reward.  Instead we do them because the deed itself is the reward.  The feeling that comes from helping someone in need is priceless. More importantly, it’s very easy to do. 

We can listen intently while someone talks about their day, compliment a friend on their outfit, or simply refill the coffee pot at work when it’s empty.  This practice isn’t about doing something big and flashy.  Instead, it’s about constantly being on the look out for small things we can do to make life nicer for both ourselves and the people around us.  In this way, we make the world warmer, and more welcoming for everyone.’ (from The Same Old Zen)

When I was looking for Shundo Aoyama’s post, which I reposted yesterday, I found a few others that spoke to the way practice is concerned with the small things.

Shundo Aoyama

‘When the abbot or any of the teachers is away from the temple for a week or so, the novices think nothing of it. But if there were no toilet paper, they would quickly feel its absence.’ (Zen Seeds)

This wonderful quote came to mind as I was writing a piece for Patreon, and I was surprised that I have only posted it once so far – though I suspect I also posted in on the Ino’s Blog as well. It feels like one of those lines that we need to hear regularly.

Yuanwu

A fish swims, making the water murky.
A bird flies, shedding its feathers.
The ultimate mirror is difficult to escape.
The great void is boundless.
Once you go, you go endlessly.
By virtue of causation, the one who practices completely lives five hundred lifetimes.
Thunder cracks the mountains and storms shake the ocean.
The color of purified gold does not change.

Rainfall

I’ve had a hard time sleeping through overnight rain for quite a few years now. I first remember it in my third winter at Tassajara, when I would wake up well before the wake-up bell. A few times, knowing I would not go back to sleep, I got up and helped the jikido, whose job in those days was to get up before everyone else, and light the kerosene lamps along the paths up and down Tassajara. It was a hard job at the best of times, but when it was wet it could be almost impossible to light the lanterns, unless the firewatch the night before had gathered them all indoors, when they blew them out after people had gone to bed. And even then, with lamps lit in the dry, they had to be distributed to their posts in the dark. The jikidos were always grateful for help.

On Friday morning, about an hour before my usual early waking time, we had a heavy rain shower passing through, so I woke up, and once awake, I just got up and made myself coffee. It left me feeling a little tired – mainly just sore around the eyes – for the talk I was due to give to the sangha at Hebden Bridge as a group of them start a year of studying the precepts, but of course the energy of the occasion saw me through. It seemed to be well received; you can find it on the audio page if you would like to listen to it.

Thankfully I didn’t have much else on my schedule. After my other main commitment in the afternoon, I took a ride down to Ocean Beach, and even with winter rain gear on, got very cold and damp in the faint drizzle. When I got home, I could not bring myself to put on my robes and go down the street to sit in the zendo, where the windows are understandably kept open. I turned the heating on and put on my cosiest clothes.

I have a roam scheduled for this afternoon, to see the magnolias, which are already out, although one of my forecasts shows light rain through the afternoon. Hopefully it will be worth the effort.

The jikido’s can of matches, struck on sandpaper, as the did the rounds to light the lanterns for the evening. It was harder work in the early morning, and when it was wet.

Katagiri Roshi

‘Whatever you do, wherever you may be, you are doing it in the Buddha’s world. Buddha’s world means the universe. The universe is nothing but the total manifestation of the truth by which all sentient beings are supported, upheld, naturally, if we open our hearts. If we don’t open our hearts, it’s a little bit difficult. Difficult means it takes a long time. But, basically, the universe and truth are very compassionate and kind toward all sentient beings. Constantly the compassionate universe is helping, just like the rain. Rain is accepted by many kinds of beings; some of the plants that are rained on grow, but some of them do not. If we don’t open our hearts it’s pretty hard to grow, it really takes time. But still, the rain is just the rain. Rain continues to fall to support all sentient beings.’ (Returning to Silence)

I am giving a talk on the precepts to the Hebden Bridge group today, as they start a year of study on the matter. As I prepared my talk, I dug out notes from a precepts class I took at Zen Center about a year after I arrived – I have kept a fair number of old notes like this – and saw that a section of this book was referenced in the bibliography. I know that I had trouble following Katagiri’s thinking at the time, but it sounds wonderful now.

Norman Fischer

‘The happiness that spiritual practice promises is not endless bliss, endless joy, and soaring transcendence. Who would want that in a world in which there is so much injustice, so much tragedy, so much unhappiness, illness, and death? To feel the scourge of impermanence and loss and to appreciate it at the same time profoundly as the beautiful essence of what it means to be at all—this is the deep truth I hear reverberating in the Buddha’s last words. Everything vanishes. Practice goes on.’ (from Lion’s Roar)

Suzuki Roshi

‘Zazen, this posture, is not only — not originally maybe a kind of training or something, but it is not just training, it is more the actual way of transmitting Buddha’s way to us. Through practice we can actually transmit Buddha’s teaching, because words is not good enough to actualize its teaching. So, naturally how we transmit it [is] through activity or through contact, through human relationships.’ (from the Suzuki Roshi Archive)

bell hooks

‘It is no accident that when we first learn about justice and fair play as children it is usually in a context where the issue is one of telling the truth. The heart of justice is truth telling, seeing ourselves and the world the way it is rather than the way we want it to be. In recent years sociologists and psychologists have documented the fact that we live in a nation where people are lying more and more each day.’ (All About Love)

You would think this book was published very recently, rather than at the turn of the millennium, for its constant topicality.

Dogen

‘That which allows one part of a buddha’s awesome presence is is entire universe, the entire earth, as well as the entirety of birth and death, coming and going, of innumerable lands and lotus blossoms. Each of these innumerable lands and lotus blossoms is one part.

Students may think that “the entire universe” refers to this southen Continent of Jambudvipa, or all the Four Continents. Some may think of it as China or Japan. Regarding “the entire earth,” they think it is one billion worlds, or simply one province or prefecture. When you examine “the entire earth” or “the entire universe,” investigate them three or five times without stopping, even though you already see them as vast.

Understanding these words [about the entire universe] is going beyond buddhas and ancestors by seeing that extremely large is small and extremely small is large. Although this seems like denying that there is any such thing as large or small, this [understanding] is the awesome presence of active buddhas.’ (Shobogenzo Gyobutsu Iigi)

Similarly to the last Dogen post, this passage may scramble your brain about large and small, and that is what it is designed to do, so that you don’t get stuck in your thinking – if you do that, you will never be an active buddha with awesome presence.

So-etsu Mineo 

The remaining snow still covers the temple-yard. 
Severe cold of this spring threatens my old bones.
I am too lazy to speak of birth and death, or nirvana. 
I only sit on the Southern verandah, 
taking a sun bath with a potted plum tree.