Shodo Harada

‘No matter what path you follow to reach the place of truth, the place you arrive is the same. When people are totally committed to their religious practice, they no longer need to be chauvinistic about it. All that is necessary is to dig into that basic question, to reach that deepest essence, and humbly accept Grace…

For those who have realized this place, there is nothing more to search for externally, or to find in another religion. All people in society need to realize this true human nature – not Buddha, or God, or that self that yearns for sex, fame, and money, but that which would naturally be respected by anyone who came in contact with it. Directly feeling the great depth and clarity of this human nature, we bow not only to God and Buddha but to that holy human quality that does not come from a life spent napping and yawning. To say “that person can do it but I cannot” is indulgent and comes from not looking at things in the right way and living in accord with that way.’ (The Path to Bodhidharma)

Gaylon Ferguson

‘My first Buddhist meditation teacher, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, spoke of non-effort as a worthy partner to effort: “Effort, non-effort and effort, non-effort—it’s beautiful.”

Yes, it is important to apply ourselves, to engage fully in mindful living. But it is equally important to release all trying and confidently trust our innate mindfulness to shine through. All the Buddhist traditions of natural wakefulness, original goodness, or buddhanature are based on this sense of inborn wisdom not produced by meditating or walking the path. This is the practice of basic sanity through what is called “just sitting” or “non-meditation” or “primordial great perfection.” As the pioneering Zen master Shunryu Suzuki Roshi phrased it: “The point we emphasize is strong confidence in our original nature.”

In this view, mindfulness is not a special attainment or an extraordinary event in our life journey. Mindfulness is an innate capacity, present in all sentient beings. Walking the path, we are gently cultivating our own nature, allowing seeds of potential to blossom. From this perspective, awakening is as natural as the dawning of the sun. We are invited to begin each session by feeling this naturally awake quality—and to return to this original openness again and again during practice and everyday life.’ (from Lion’s Roar)

We looked at this article in my student group this week, and this passage drew the most attention.

Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

‘It wasn’t until I officiated my first Jukai ceremony—lay initiation for students—that living a life of vows came into full view. It wasn’t about me, name or no name. Through tears, I saw my black students move with so much courage, hand in hand, heart to heart, enacting and embodying liberation through vows. Not liberation from something, but liberation into being the body of nature, being the earth, that they are.

It was difficult to stop crying during the ceremony as I said these words: “Abiding according to the ten grave precepts, even after realizing buddhahood, will you continuously observe them?” To which the initiates replied: “Yes, I will.” Hearing their devotion to awakening, I was deeply moved to stand at the gate and usher in those who want to live free, filled with love, and be protected from harm in doing so. The gateway need not be Zen or Buddhist; it can be any gateway of freedom that emerges in one’s life. Whatever you are devoted to is what you are living as your vow. Devotion means “of vow.”’ (from Lion’s Roar)

Having attended that ceremony, I can attest that it was a moving occasion.

Zenju with her initiates and students after the jukai ceremony in Berkeley

Mazu

‘Master Shui Lao asked Mazu, “What is the true meaning of the coming from the West?” Mazu then knocked him down with a kick to the chest: Shui Lao was greatly enlightened. He got up clapping his hands and laughing loudly and said, “How extraordinary! How wonderful! Instantly, on the tip of a hair, I’ve understood the root source of myriad states of concentration and countless subtle meanings.” Then he bowed and withdrew. Afterwards, he would tell the assembly, “From the time I took Mazu’s kick up until now, I haven’t stopped laughing.’ (quoted in Swampland Flowers)

Once again, kids, don’t try this at home.

Yunmen

‘There really is nothing at all to give you to understand, or to give you to wonder about, because each of you has your own business. When the great function appears, it does not take any effort on your part; now you are no different from the Zen masters and buddhas. It’s just that your roots of faith are shallow and thin, while your bad habits are dense and thick.

Suddenly you get all excited and go on long journeys with your bowls and bags; why do you undergo such inconvenience? What insufficiency is there in you? You are adults; who has no lot? Even when you attain understanding individually on your own, this is still not being on top of things; so you shouldn’t accept the deceptions of others or the judgments of others.’ (The Sayings of Yunmen)

Yunmen was fond of giving his monks a hard time.

Tongan

The solitary peak is high and grand,
Not a single layer of mist.
The crescent moon crosses the void,
The white clouds come forth.

Lama Rod Owens

‘When I am speaking about sangha, I am reminding people that when we gather together as a community of spiritual practitioners, we take on a special purpose. We are no longer an ordinary community. We are more than just blood family or an activist affinity group. We are people consenting together to help another obtain spiritual realization. No one has to like anyone. I have been in spiritual communities where there have been people I wouldn’t call a friend. However, what makes sangha important is that I can recognize that I don’t like soomeone, maybe put up some boundaries that protect our relationship from becoming violent, while focusing on my love for that person. Again, when I love, I am accepting someone and wanting them to be happy. We don’t have to like someone to love them. I think this is somuch of what makes the spiritual community important.’ (Love and Rage)

I entirely agree, and I suspect have said as much elsewhere here over the years.

Zenkei Blanche Hartman

‘In every photo I have of Suzuki Roshi – and I have a lot of them – he’s laughing or smiling. My teachers and my practice have never taught me not to enjoy life. The deeply seasoned teachers I’ve had the opportunity to meet have all been supportive to people who are suffering, but they have also been very playful and lighthearted.’ (The Hidden Lamp)

This is a delicate balancing act to pull off, but I trust that Suzuki Roshi – as well as Katagiri Roshi and Sojun Mel Weitsman, who Blanche also namechecks – was able to do this thanks to his long and deep practice.

Suzuki Roshi (r) with Kobun Chino at Tassajara, from David Chadwick’s site

Hongzhi

‘People of the way journey through the world responding to conditions, carefree and without restraint. Like clouds finally raining, like moonlight following the current, like orchids growing in shade, like spring arising in everything, they act without mind, they respond with certainty.’ (Cultivating the Empty Field)

Cathering brought some Hongzhi into yesterday’s talk to the Hebden Bridge sangha, which was lovely to listen to, and inspired me to take the book down off my shelves again. When I checked when I had used favourite line before, a couple of Wilbur-related posts showed up, poignant reminders of pre-pandemic springs.

The city workers were trimming trees along my street on Monday, and I rescued some late blossoms

Judy Roitman

‘Almost exactly forty-four years ago, I went to a talk by the Korean Zen Master Seung Sahn at the Cambridge Zen Center. As a very new Zen student, I’m not sure what I was expecting, but whatever it was, it didn’t happen. He held up a cup and asked, “Is this a cup or is this not a cup?” He took a sip. And I thought, he didn’t answer the question! He held up a watch and asked, “Is this a watch or is this not a watch?” He looked at it. And I thought he didn’t answer the question!

He went on like this, hinting at one thing or another but never exactly pinning anything down, and I kept thinking he didn’t answer the question! I so thoroughly and completely did not understand what was going on that everything I knew seemed irrelevant. It suddenly hit me, with my PhD and bloated test scores and skipped grades in school, that nothing I knew was worth knowing.

I was so freaked out that I couldn’t drive home. I used the Zen center phone (cell phones were decades away) to call a friend who luckily answered and, recognizing an emergency when she heard one, showed up and walked me around the neighborhood. “I don’t know anything,” I said over and over, slashing the air with my hands. I don’t know anything.’ (from Lion’s Roar)

There was a lot in this article that had me nodding my head in agreement. Look out for another extract soon.