‘As far as I’m concerned if someone wants to call themselves a “Zen Buddhist” I will accept that, the same way I accept other people’s various chosen identities. I would expect a person who calls themselves a “Zen Buddhist” to regularly practice zazen and to be trying their best to follow the precepts. I’d expect them to know at least the basics of the philosophy & history of Zen Buddhism. On the other hand, I know people who call themselves “Zen Buddhists” and don’t do any of those things. I don’t bother arguing against them.
As far as beliefs, it really doesn’t matter. Buddhism is not a belief system. Having said that, I should add the caveat that there are forms of Buddhism in which they care very much what you believe. But in the Zen form of Buddhism beliefs are not considered to be very important. My teacher used to say, “I believe in the universe.”’(from Hardcore Zen)
I have a basic hesitation before calling anything ‘zen.’ I think that was one of the things I absorbed while training at Zen Center; while some people were very keen to attach labels and name things, those teaching there rarely, if ever, seemed to. That works for me (and I appreciate that it was called the Zen Center, and that I have tagged this post ‘zen’; the point stands).
‘A lot has been said about walking the path of awakening, so I’ll mention just one thing that relates to taking on a day-to-day practice of enlightenment. Especially early on, most of us still have a lot of self-centeredness, by which I mean belief in the absolute reality of the self and the primacy of its concerns and reactions. One of the bemusing results is that here we are, hoping for an event that by its nature is unprecedented in our lives, and we think we know best about how to make it happen. We try to exert control over the process, believing we can find our way to enlightenment through acts of will.
There is mad discipline and insane persistence on this path, but they’re in the service of something more fruitful than certainty, control, and will. They’re in the service of availability. Just keep showing up. Sit the meditation, attend the retreat, absorb the teachings, face the fear, feel the sorrow, endure the boredom, explore the doubt, stay open to the disturbing and also the knee-bucklingly beautiful in your life.’ (from Lion’s Roar)
‘An old buddha [Hongzhi] said, “Reach over to grasp what’s there, and bring its workings right here.”
When you take on sustaining this, all things, bodies, actions, and buddhas become intimate with you. These actions, things, bodies, and buddhas are simply covered [immersed] in acceptance. Because they are simply covered in acceptance, they are just dropped off.
The covered eye is the radiance of one hundred grass tips; do not be swayed [into thinking] that it does not see one thing, does not see a single matter. The covered eye reaches this thing and that thing. Throughout journeys, while taking on coming and going, or while leaving and entering by the same gate, nothing is hidden in the entire world, and so the World-Honored One’s intimate language, intimate realization, intimate practice, and intimate entrustment are present.’ (Shobogenzo Gyobutsu Iigi)
As I typed out the last word of the passage, my keyboard suggested the emoji 🎁 . And why not, after all? When we see things intimately, and immerse them in acceptance of what they are, they do not just become one, but they become the complete gift of themselves.
‘Student: I am so grateful to you and Tassajara and Zen Center that I’d like to study Zen. What should I do first?
Suzuki Roshi: You should do something in right time in the right way. Try to keep up with our practice.’ (from the Suzuki Roshi archives)
There is really nothing to add. This is the same as Joshu’s bowl.
Searching for attributes is wrong
Seeing no form is like death
Don’t ask if it’s vast or small
A ray of winter light flickers in the void
‘In the Japanese language, determination is composed of two ideographs that carry the respective meanings “to be angry” and “aspiration.” Your anger is not directed toward someone else. Indignant with yourself over your own weakness and immaturity, you employ the strong whip of aspiration; this is determination.’ (From Novice to Master)
As with other quotes from this book, it is helpful to remember that the author is reminiscing about the rigours of traditional Japanese monastic practice. In the right container, what might seem like the complete absence of self-compassion is perhaps the necessary tool to break through old patterns.
‘We will forever be pushed to expand the human capacity. Are we ready to keep living with an attention to how we navigate what feels like the worst of times, without closing off or covering it all up with optimism? We are collectively and constantly being given the path to transformation and awakening. We may have to walk it in our bare feet without knowing where we are going. Are you ready for such wandering with its trouble and beauty along the way? Can you be the open field of unknowing darkness that you are and discover what it means to live on this planet with all else that is alive? Can you still have visions of the freedom you know to have been granted in birth?’ (from Lion’s Roar)
‘Dizang saw a monastic coming and held up a whisk.
The monastic bowed.
Dizang said, “What did you see that made you bow?”
The monastic said, “I thanked you for your instruction.”
Dizang hit the monastic and said, “You saw me hold up the whisk and thanked me. Why don’t you thank me when you see me sweep the ground every day?”‘ (Shinji Shobogenzo)
The sun brightens
the solitary peak,
The moon’s face
in the valley stream,
The intimate vastness of the Buddhas
cannot fit into
a small mind.
‘Nothing arises on its own. Everything is the result of karma. All it is is karma. It possesses no self-nature. According to the Middle Path, since nothing possesses any self-nature, it does not exist. Yet we give things a name, hence they do not not exist. Becuase we do not not give them names, we keep liberating beings. But because their natures are empty, we do not actually liberate anyone. And why don’t we liberate anyone? If the concept of a self existed, we could say that somebody is liberated. But since neither a self nor an other exist, who is liberated? Is is only a fiction.’ (Commentary on the Diamond Sutra)
A fiction, I might add, that we take to be real.