Monday, December 17, 2012

“The more I love, the more that I’m afraid”

The holidays are upon us.  The dark has moved in.  My son is home from college.  We begin our traditions.  My human sentiments come upon me strong.  The passions of our attachments to people and situations in our life are strong and wonderful even  though, in Buddhist terminology, they are attachments.   They are often a major part of the meaning of my life, my roles as wife, lover, mother, sister etc.  I am struck with the lyrics from “How do you keep the music playing?”  A song written by Alan and Marilyn Bergman that sings “the more I love, the more that I’m afraid.”

How true that is. “The more I love, the more that I’m afraid.”  If I dare to open my heart as wide as it can be and the deeper I allow love in, the more I am afraid of the losses that will inevitable come.  One of our impermanence verses declares "meeting will end in separation."  Oh dear, what do I do about this deep, painful, human predicament; that to deeply love, we have to be willing to deeply grieve.

For me, this is the exact point where having a deeply spiritual life is a necessity.  How do I fully love and fully feel loss without going crazy or shutting down or not allowing love in the first place?  How can I be completely open to my karmic life so that I can deeply experience this one precious human life?

What does it mean to have Buddha’s heart?  Open and all-inclusive.  In order to have Buddha’s heart, I have to increase my capacity to be intimate with suffering.  I have to learn the deep, deep patience of acceptance so that I can live in this one day and experience it fully.  This is the great practice and the demand of a Buddhist life.  Being intimate with suffering with no escape.  Not only that, but once you open your heart, other’s suffering become your own.  In that case, there is not a single day where the tenderness towards suffering can be avoided or not practiced.

I have been writing holiday notes to my friends who have experienced harsh suffering in the past year.  What do I say?  I have found myself saying that I hope they can find the small joys of the day; the dawn light, a smile, a feeling of love, the sound of the trees, that can help them sustain themselves through the difficulties.
Going to one of the loving-kindness slogans: May loving kindness sustain me.  May I accept the ups and downs of life.

The development of kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity is the basis of our Buddhist practice and yet it is not easily attained.  We have to practice in many small ways every day so that when deep trouble and loss comes, we have a stability to our understanding that will allow us to receive our life as a Buddha, not attached to gain and loss, but willing to be very, very intimate with joy and suffering both.
Then, perhaps, we can be unafraid to love.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Raising his eyebrows and blinking his eyes

Sometimes to understand a koan or a passage from Dogen, it’s necessary to understand the language or a phrase.  The phrases often have a symbolic or metaphorical meaning.  Part of the beauty of Zen is our tradition of poetic images.  Instead of using traditional technical language, our ancestors really challenged each other to come up with unusual, colorful, symbolic language that expressed their understanding, which is essentially not understood intellectually but possibly, pointed at through images.  (from the introduction to Zen Sand by Victor Hori)

I have been trying to understand what raising his eyebrows and blinking his eyes mean from the ending of Uji, Being-Time of Dogen’s Shobogenzo.  This has been a detective process for me.  Finding a trail of the use of this phrase and then “getting it.”  The process led me to my first “find” in my search.

On page 405 of the Eihei Koroku, Leighton & Okamura
“Dogen said,
We hit the han and sit Zazen according to the olden manner, and you are urged to avoid sleep and to seek the elimination of all doubts.  Do not let yourself blink your eyes or raise your eyebrows.”

Oh, Oh, so it means to go from stillness to movement.  Oh, oh, we are working with the dichotomy of stillness and activity. The main work of all Zen, is to understand the dicotomies as one dynamic working.  The opposites swirling around each other in one energy.  One sword cuts into one piece.

So now that we see the undermeaning, we can enter into the koan at the end of Uji.

From Uji:
Once Yaoshan Weiyan at the direction of Shitou Xiqian, went  Zen Master Ma-tsu (Basso) with a question.
“I believe I have a fair grasp of the three vehicles and the teaching of the twelve divisions (all aspects of Buddhist doctrine) but what about the meaning of the first patriarch’s coming from the west?

Paraphrased:  I understand most doctrinal teachings in Buddhism, but what is the real meaning of Zen?

Ma-tsu replied:
For the time being, I let him raise his eyebrows and blink his eyes.
For the time being, I don’t let him raise his eyebrows and blink his eyes
For the time being, my letting him raise his eyebrows and blink his eyes is correct
For the time being my letting him raise his eyebrows and blink his eyes is not correct.

If we understand raising his eyebrows and blinking his eyes to mean that Bodhidharma, Buddha or ourselves as buddha, begin to move into the activity of the form world from emptiness or stillness, we can see that these sentences are working with the dualities of; affirmation and negation, form and emptiness, activity and stillness.  Throughout all of Dogen’s teachings, he is expounding, that no matter what side of a dichotomy is being expressed in the moment, this expression is the entire universe, is the mystery itself without any naming or categorization.  We do not pick and choose but see this moment whether we like it or not, as realization and enlightenment itself.  Nothing is left out of the mystery and, as I say over and over, the dualities swirl around each other making the dynamics of ‘the whole working’.  Both sides are recognized, however they arise, as the source (as emptiness or impermanence itself).  If I am practicing and expressing activity, or if I am practicing and expressing not-activity, both are equally an expression of the mystery of life and equally realization. 

This passage goes on to work with right and wrong which is the ever-present frustration in human life.  Am I doing this right or wrong?  Our ever-arising ego-centricity wants to do everything Right.  We are attached to right. We are often attached to emptiness or sometimes attached oppositely to our storied form life or to both!  Yet both right and wrong, success and failure, form and emptiness, are never outside of the ever-present expression of the mysteriously alive moment. Enlightenment is to be non-attached yet fully present.

While the seasons come and go, and the mountains, rivers, and great earth change with time, you should know that this is buddha raising his eyebrows and blinking his eyes – so it is the unique body revealed in myriad things.
               From Keizan’s, Transmission of the Light, case 1. Shakyamuni Buddha

Each moment we experience in our lives is the expression of Buddha raising his eyebrows and blinking his eyes.  Katagiri-Roshi often said that practice was seeing and treating everything as Buddha itself.  Buddha’s body is expressed in its myriad forms.

Dogen expresses this reality - that every form arising is the suchness itself, so beautifully in the next poem.  Nirvana or the vermillion towers are found nowhere else than in the present expression.  Realization is after all an everyday affair. (Fukanzazengi)

From Eihei Koroku, Leighton & Okamura, page 623

8 verses given to a Zen Person
I strain my ears, raise my head, and wait for the dawn breeze.
How many times, dreamily herding an ox in the spring rain?
Who realizes that this intention pierces the heavens?
Just remain with raising eyebrows and blinking eyes.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Rohatsu Doshi Statement

We vow
To enter each moment
6 and ½ billion moments a day
to die and get birthed
at superspeed
into the moment to moment always, infinitely ever unfolding
mystery of the “Now”

Even blundering around
Even lost in a haze
Even a ½ a person
There is never anything left-over
Or outside the mystery of this creative moment
The pivoting of birth and death,
creation and destruction
right now

“While the seasons come and go,
and the mountains, rivers, and great earth change with time,
 you should know that this is buddha
raising his eyebrows and blinking his eyes”

wholeheartedly we plunge into this moment
we are enveloped in vow
and practice forever together.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Rohatsu Sesshin

Here are two wonderful quotes I found about Rohatsu Sesshin that at Clouds starts tonight and ends in a week.  We do this every year to acknowledge Buddha's Enlightenment Day on Dec 8th and someone just emailed me - "What a wonderful antidote to the commercial-overloaded holidays."

from the e-bulletin from Sanshin Zen Community:
Hakuin Zenji, (1686 - 1768) the great revivor of Japanese Rinzai Zen, gave talks to his monks every evening during Rohatsu to help them fight off the urge to sleep or slack off.

Below is Hakuin's Rohatsu Jishu, or Rohatsu Exhortation, Fifth Night:

Master Hakuin said, 'Usually there are three lengths of training periods in the monastery. The longest is one hundred twenty days, the next one is one hundred days, the shortest is ninety days. During these periods, participants strive to clarify THIS MATTER. No one is allowed to leave the monastery and no one speaks unnecessarily.

In the practice of zazen a daring, courageous attitude is essential. Let me tell you a story. There lived a man named Heshiro. He carved a stone Buddha and placed it near a waterfall in the deep mountains. Then he happened to sit down by the pool at the bottom of the waterfall. He noticed a lot of bubbles in the stream. Some of the bubbles disappeared quickly after falling, and some disappeared after floating ten feet or more.

While looking at them, due to his karma, he strongly felt the transiency of life, he realized that all phenomena, good or bad, are just like the bubbles on the surface of the water. The impact of this realization made him feel the worthlessness of just living, just spending his days without understanding the mystery of life.
By chance, he heard someone reading out loud from the sayings of Master Takusui, "The man of sympathy and bravery will find enlightenment in one nen, but for the man of indolence, realization of his True Nature will never come.

Inspired by this saying, Heshiro went into a small room and locked the door. He sat down, erected his spine, clasped his hands in a fist and opened his eyes widely. With a pure straightforward mind, he did zazen. Innumerable thoughts, delusions and hallucinations appeared, but his zazen defeated them all, and he reached a deep and calm state free from thoughts.
He continued to sit through the night. At dawn, when he heard the birds singing outside, he could not find his body. He felt as if his eyes had fallen to the ground. A moment: later, he felt the pain of his fingernails digging into his hands and then realized that his eyes had come back to their usual place. He was able to stand up and walk.

He repeated this kind of zazen for three days and nights. On the morning of the fourth day, after washing his face, be looked at the trees in the garden. They appeared very different. He felt strange.

Heshiro did not understand this, so he visited a neighborhood priest, but the priest himself was helpless to explain. At someone's suggestion, Heshiro came to see me (Hakuin).

On the way to my monastery, he had to climb to the top of a mountain. Suddenly, he looked at the panoramic view of the seashore. It was at that moment that he thoroughly understood that all beings, grasses, trees, land and birds are primarily Buddha. Excitedly, he came to my dokusan room and immediately passed several important koans.

"Now let us remember that Heshiro was an ordinary man. He did not know anything about Zen nor had he practiced zazen. Nevertheless, through only three days and nights of intensive sitting, he was able to unite his being with all others and to clarify the meaning of his being. It was his motivation and his daring, courageous attitude that had overcome all obstacles. WHERE IS YOUR BRAVE DETERMINATION? BRAVELY WORK HARD!

from the e-bullitin of One Drop Zendo-Urban center. 
2011 Excerpt from Harada Roshi Opening Sogenji’s Rohatsu osesshin
“This type of activity, this coming together and supporting each other in the great work of delving into the deepest stratum of our mind to experience the inherent stability and joyfulness of our true base; this is what is most needed, most necessary in the world today.
Everyone gathered here, please understand, you have inherent in your very Mind a huge potential, an incalculable brilliance, an ability to see the reality of this moment clearly.  But without taking the time and putting forth the effort to penetrate to this deepest clarity of mind, without that deepest realization of this true Master, we will never be able to actually perceive who we really are, who it is that is actually alive, what are the characteristics of our true self, this boundless brilliance, this constant freedom and joy.
To bring our intensity of focused effort to this most important work.  To use this opportunity to not lack in the slightest way for anything, but to bring our hugeness of Vow and deep wish to revitalize all beings, and to continue this effort in every moment without looking away.”

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Losing our balance in a background of perfect harmony

Quotes from Suzuki roshi, Zen mind, Beginners Mind, page 27

“To live in the realm of Buddha nature means to die as a small being, moment after moment”

This quote seems to support what we have been studying in Dogen’s Being-time.  Our small being attaches to the appearance of life, to linear progressive time, to our stories and the naming of our identities. Through the eyes of our small self, life is filled with dissatisfaction and fear of our personal annihilation – our death.  A true understanding of time is to see impermanence; Time as impermanence.  Everything is appearing and disappearing and changing from moment to moment.  To see “being” in reality is to see that a moment is born and dies in 1/62nd of a finger snap.  Our small self’s perceptions are born and die 6,400,099,090 times in a day. “Superspeed”, Katagiri-roshi called it.  To understand this is to live in the realm of Buddha-nature.

From Suzuki Roshi, page 28:

“When we lose our balance we die, but at the same time we also develop ourselves, we grow.  Whatever we see is changing, losing its balance.  The reason everything looks beautiful is because it is out of balance, but its background is always in perfect harmony.”

Oh, how we struggle to keep our balance and to stay centered.  I said for years that spirituality meant being grounded.  What a shock when I first heard Pema Chodron say, that Buddhist practice was about being comfortable with groundlessness.  Suzuki Roshi calls this losing our balance in constant change. How do we live with that?  Through the practice of letting go in all our various circumstances and trusting the total dynamic working of life, we come to find a new practice of surfing the groundlessness and change of our stories.  Not attaching to anything and flowing with Time.  Learning to BE in the flow of change.  Being-time. 

What is the background of perfect harmony?  As Katagiri-Roshi repeatedly said, if we see our lives from the universal perspective, we see that everything is working in peace and harmony.  Everything is pumping away using cause and effect, pumping in total dynamic working, Zenki.  There is no solid “I” that is the center of the universe.  There is just functioning.

“This is how everything exists in the realm of Buddha-nature, losing its balance against a background of perfect harmony.  So if you see things without realizing the background of Buddha-nature, everything appears to be in the form of suffering.  But if you understand the background of existence, you realize that suffering itself is how we live, and how we extend our life.  So in Zen sometimes we emphasize the imbalance or disorder of life.” Pg. 28

This is very strange.  On the surface, if you enter a zendo, you feel that Zen emphasizes order and perfection.  The room is completely orderly and neat. The behavior is choreographed and perfect.  What could Suzuki Roshi possibly mean that Zen emphasizes the imbalance or disorder of life?  This is why it takes so long to actually understand Zen.  Our first understanding of Zen is often completely upside down. 

As I’m getting ready to go into Rohatsu sesshin, the question arises, “Why do we do this crazy, sometimes uncomfortable, long ceremony of sitting and highly choreographed living?”  Because of this quiet, settling-the-mind ritual, we can often taste the universe perspective of peace and harmony regardless of our own personal circumstances.  We can digest the suffering of the ups and downs of our individualized life.  We can let go of our strongly held beliefs and attachments through quiet, settled being.  We can begin to see Suzuki Roshi’s statement “to die as a small being, moment to moment”.

“So if you see things without realizing the background of Buddha-nature, everything appears to be in the form of suffering.  But if you understand the background of existence, you realize that suffering itself is how we live, and how we extend our life.”
Somehow, through the experience of a settled being, Zen practice can help us reorient ourselves to our life and its stories and the concomitant suffering.  We become more able to handle the suffering of existence as practice itself.  We learn to surf the waves in joy, hard work, letting go and freedom.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Does Time fly by?

The dichotomy we have been working with in Dogen’s Uji is time and timelessness.  Another way of naming this duality is linear, sequential time and ‘being-time’.  “Being-time” drops the moment down and touches timelessness or eternity or no-birth-no-death as Thich Nhat Hanh would call it.  Each moment in Buddhist understanding, is the entire world and all times. 

Each moment is the eternal spring.  The source energy of life arises and produces each moment as an independent time. Even though, through the principle of cause and effect in the form world, we experience Time as developmental and in a sequence, strictly speaking, a moment arises and dies in 1/62nd of a finger snap.  The conditions of the last moment predetermine the arising of the next moment but essentially they do not connect.  The moments are coming and going at “superspeed” as Katagiri Roshi used to say.  Dogen says that moments are swallowed up and spitted out.  The eternal spring gushes forth on each discrete, discontinuous moment.

Most of us only see time in its developmental, sequential way of being.  We have no doubt about sequence.  The sun rises and sets.  We are born, have a childhood, an adulthood, get sick and die.  A seed produces a sprout, produces a tree, produces a fruit.

“The going and coming of life is obvious, you do not come to doubt them.  But even though you do not have doubts about them, that is not to say you know them.”
                                                            Dogen, Uji” or “Being-time”
                                                            Wadell/Abe translation

We do not doubt what is obvious to our eye.  For example, that my children are now grown and leaving the house.  How their childhood flew by.  But if we only experience life as flying by, we don’t really come to have intimacy with what is actually happening in the present moment.  In order to have this “knowing” of the moment, we have to penetrate it and know it as an independent time and that I am experiencing the moment right now as “being-time”.

Do not think that time merely flies away.  Do not see flying away as the only function of time.  If time merely flies away, you would be separated from time.  The reason you do not clearly understand the time being is that you think of time only as passing.”
                                                            Dogen, “Uji” or “being-time”
                                                            Tanahashi translation

When we are full of our schedules, our to-do lists and our busyness, as our life is flying by, we do not have the “time” to drop down and feel the moment as a fresh, mysterious being.  Each moment is a being and it is deeply penetrated with our being.  In fact, they are absolutely inseparable.  This inability to feel the whole world in our moments is why our life feels so dissatisfying.  Flying by is not the only function of time.  We are running around but not experiencing.  So Buddha called this, the constant dissatisfaction of life or the Second Noble Truth.  If we can learn about being-time, we can enter into a place of satiation with the mystery of life.  We can touch the eternal source, daily, in our ordinary tasks by being-time.

How do we live with, or practice with this pivot of time and timelessness?  The two are distinct but they mutually, and simultaneously arise together.  Dogen admonishes us to “Penetrate exhaustively each dharma position or independent time, each moment.” Tanahashi’s translation of the same sentence is “vigorously abiding in each moment.”  Katagiri-roshi unpacks this by saying, “Practicing with full commitment to the moment leads you to that which you seek.”  Our seeking gets resolved in our “being”.

Katagiri Roshi writes, “If you take care of this “right now” with wholeheartedness, you create good conditions for the next” right now”.  Please take good care of this moment.”

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Doing Zazen for all beings

This was written for the 6th week of fall practice period at Clouds in Water Zen Center.

We do zazen for all beings.

Lately with my son, I’ve been watching what I call “doomsday movies” or movies in which the future looks pretty grim.  This past Monday, I wrote out the lineage papers for Gentle Dragon’s ordination.  They are done in a very prescribed way that I learned from my teacher.  They have been done in this certain way for hundreds of years.  As I stamped the three treasures stamp over Buddha’s name and Gentle Dragon’s name, I had this poignant feeling that we are doing our practice for ourselves, but also for the future generations.  May the future generations have silence, boundlessness, and deep meaning in their life so that the future people will have a basis for their activities directed in a wholesome way.

When we actually stop our world and our busyness to sit down in zazen, we enter into a boundless, timeless space that affects all times and all places.  We do zazen with all beings and our effort is a contribution of this human activity of stillness which will strengthen the transmission of the teaching and help it continue into the future.

Many of us in practice period are going into sesshin this weekend.  I look forward to letting go of my achievement drive and just sitting with all beings, past, present and future. 

Please sit for all beings; past, present, and future. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Encouragement to follow through with practice commitments

I wrote this note to people who are doing the 10-week practice period at Clouds in Water Zen Center. I thought others might be interested in Katagiri-Roshi's quote and encouragement for daily committed practice.

We are at the halfway point in our commitments lasting until the Rohatsu Celebration on Dec 9th?

Many of us committed to meditating every day.  How's it going?  Last week, I wrote about the doldrums and connecting with others to encourage our ability to be steadfast and follow through.  Find a way to encourage yourself this week.  Re-energize in some way.

If you feel that it's impossible to follow what you originally set out to do,  then, sit down with yourself (and another person if you want) and refine your commitments to something doable.  Even a smaller commitment steadfastly done will reap some fruit.

I was inspired this week by studying Katagiri Roshi's book for the Wednesday Time class.  He writes:

"Busyness has the great power to emanicipate itself.  That’s why you want to find a way to be free from busyness and just be present quietly.  This is quietness, tranquility.  When you are calm, tranquil, and still, twelve hours of time returns to no-time or timelessness.  Can you stay with quietness?  No, quietness has the great power to act.  You cannot stay with timelessness or you would die, so timelessness must become twelve hours again."

What I take away from this quote is

Time emancipates timelessness, and timelessness emancipates time.

Which means to me that I need everyday to go into quiet, calm, stillness to liberate the burden of my schedule and my "To do" list and free myself of the fatigue of samsaric life. We can't or don't even want to stay in timelessness because we don't want to dismiss our one precious human life but rather to seize the day!  This quiet place inspires us to come back into our life; refreshed, concentrated and mentally clear.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Setting the self out in array

From Uji or Being-Time by Dogen, a fascicle in the Shobogenzo:

We set the self out in array and make that the whole world.
We must see all the various things of the whole world as so many times.
                                                Waddell and Abe Translation
The way the self arrays itself is the form of the entire world.
See each thing in this entire world as a moment of time.
                                                Tanahashi Translation

In our study of Buddhist Time, we are contemplating the intersection of Time and Space or Being in the truth happening place of the present moment.  In considering Dogen’s word being-time, we have to go beyond just the study of time and also look into and see how it’s related to our being or our “self”.  There is not one writing from Dogen which allows us to hold onto our idea of “self” as a separate being or our “life” as a solid life span.  He constantly, in his rearranging of syntax and reinterpretation of words, breaks down our conceptual ideas of an individual unit of a “self”.

In the quotes above, he is again suggesting that “being” or “existence” or “self” is not a unit but is a complete expression of all times and all places.  He espouses that the world and the self are born and die in one moment and is interpenetrated with the whole world.

While we were discussing this in class, very predictably the duality arose of:

·      do we make the world through our projections of consciousness? or
·      does the world make us, by dropping the self and becoming wholeheartedly one with the conditions of each moment?

This caused me to pause. Are we stuck in either/or again?  Our discursive mind is always dissecting and slicing.  This mind wants to make everything a portion of the whole.  Our conscious minds not able to recognize the whole working together.

We discussed in class what the phrase “We set the self out in array and make that the whole world” means.  One person thought it meant that we project our consciousness out into the environment and construct a world.  I, in a different way, had interpreted it as, once we can wholeheartedly become the activity of the present moment, losing our sense of self in that process, the whole world becomes us.  Someone brought up this quote from the Genjo-Koan fascicle:
Conveying oneself toward all things to carry out practice-enlightenment is delusion. 
All things coming and carrying out practice-enlightenment through the self is realization.
Then, I have to laugh. We have just studied quite thoroughly the fascicle of Daigo, Great Realization, which demonstrates that both delusion or enlightenment are the complete expression of the moment, and therefore filled with suchness.  Delusion and enlightenment are two sides of the complete whole.

The sentence just previous to “We set the self out in array” is:
“Nevertheless, the doubts themselves are, after all, none other than time.”
And the sentence just following is:
See each thing in the entire world as a moment of time.”
I think we could interpret that as encouraging us to see both delusion and enlightenment as a moment of time and that moment of time is the Whole Dynamic Working.

I found this quote from Uchiyama Roshi in “The Art of Just Sitting” page 59-60 helpful in clarifying how we might understand this unification of self and environment or the “whole world”:

We usually assume that the world existed long before we were born and that our birth is our entrance onto the stage of an already existing world.  At the same time, we often assume that our death means our departure from this world, and that after our death this world continues to exist.  Within this way of thinking a fabrication is taking shape that is not the actualization of reality itself.
This is nothing more than a fabrication of an idea.
My true Self lives in a reality, and the world I experience is one I alone can experience, and not anyone else can experience it along with me. 
To express this as precisely as possible, as I am born, I simultaneously give birth to the world I experience; I live out my life along with that world, and at my death the world I experience also dies.
From the standpoint of reality, my own life experience (which in Buddhist terminology equals mind) and reality (which means the dharma or phenomena I encounter in life) can never be abstractly separated from each other.  They must be identical.
Shin, or mind, in terms of Buddhadharma should be understood as follows: the mind that has been directly transmitted from buddha to buddha is the mind that extends throughout all phenomena, and all phenomena are inseparable from that mind.  Hence, the use of the word “mind” in this case goes far beyond having only a mental or psychological meaning.  In our age, perhaps “pure life” would be a clearer expression than mind.
Let’s take another look at the expression, “The dharma should be grasped so that mind and object become one.”  This expression means that we must learn to see all phenomena (everything in life) from the foundation of a pure-life experience.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Self is Time

I am teaching a class on the Buddhist sense of Time.  It feels like working with Time could be a complete avenue to awakening.  We know that one of our primary admonishments is to “live in the now” but what does that mean exactly?

Keats has coined a term called “negative capability”.  I often use this term even though it has a lot of different meanings in different fields of study.  The way I use the term is that we can cultivate the capability of living in uncertainty, in the mystery without having to grasp on to a certain “right” fact or static truth.  In Buddhism, it is the ability to hold the two sides of life, the absolute and the relative, time and timelessness, as a dynamic foci without needing to hold on to either side.

We have two types of time:  flowing time and stopped or eternal time.  We have Time and timelessness.  Freedom and the burdens of our human stories.  Can we begin to practice with time and no-time as simultaneous occurrences, mutually influencing each other, without getting stuck on one side or the other.

Each moment is the totality of the universe.  All the ten directions and all the ten times are expressed in the creation of a moment. The microcosm and the macrocosm express itself together.  The inside of a so-called “Being” and the outside of the so-called “environment” are interconnected, have a mutual identity, they co-exist in oneness and interfusion, and they mutually penetrate each other.  This teaching and expansive idea creates the term Being-Time in Dogen’s language.  The "now" lives at the intersection of time and space or being.  That crossroads is the truth happening place.  That crossroad includes all time; past, present, and future, and all directions.

Not only that, but the “now” can’t be found, at least by consciousness.  Perhaps, it can be felt or experienced, but not through our discriminative thinking.  Certainly, we can’t put into words what “It” is. 

This time, this being, is completely impermanent.  Katagiri Roshi calls it the pivot of nothingness.  It is both very dynamic; the opposites creating each other or polarizing around each other, and very silent with no activity.  The creation and destruction of the moment is so fast that it is beyond what we can know.  The Abhidharma calls this moment a tanji;  everything is born and annihilated in 1/62nd of a finger snap.  In quantum physics, a moment is 10 to the negative 43 power of a second.  There are 6,400,099,090 setsunas or moments in one 24 hour period and in each of these moments our five skandhas appear and disappear repeatedly.

How can this understanding of impermanence and this gateway to timelessness, help us in our life and practice?  There seems to be an ever repeating mantra in our culture which is “I don’t have enough time” or “I’m too busy”.  This samsaric stance of the “burden of time” can be opened up by our practice and understanding of each moments depth and breadth.  How can you take care of time without going crazy?  We can intervene on the stress of linear, flowing time by understanding timelessness and simultaneity.  Ironically, our very busy life is the invitation for us to stop and be timeless.  We can find quiet and tranquility even though we know silence isn’t a permanent state.  We understand that we can not hold on to it.  To stay with no-time is to die. So naturally, timelessness invites us back into activity refreshed.  As Katagiri roshi says, “Real time is nothing but dynamic function.  So time itself possesses the great power to emancipate you from the limitations of your idea of time as busyness.”

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Bodhisattvas and Buddhas

As I have been attending Ken Ford’s Buddhist history class at Clouds in Water, I was struck by this observation of a myth about Bodhisattvas.

The myth that I have heard and often said in teaching is that bodhisattvas forgo full buddhahood in order to save living beings.  In other words, at the brink of enlightenment, a bodhisattva turns back and vows not to cross over until all beings cross over.  This, Andrew Stilton in the book, A Concise History of Buddhism, says is a distortion.  The bodhisattva is motivated by compassion and for this reason should not turn away from enlightenment because buddhahood is the most effective state in which to help other beings.  Isn’t this a subtle discernment?  What is the difference between a bodhisattva and a buddha?

Stilton writes about three main factors that characterize a bodhisattva:

1.     A profound, non-dual wisdom
2.     An extensive compassion
3.     The presence of the Bodhicitta

The basis for helping others is understanding the true reality.  This is a profound, non-dual wisdom.  We begin to see that there is no inherent, separate, permanent existence to anything.  If things are permanent, there can be no change and this does not align with what we actually know is true.  If we look, we see change.  Even the physicists now agree with this.  Emptiness is empty of inherent existence, which means, all things are dependent upon conditions and are completely influenced by the “other.”  There is no separate “I” and separate “other.  All things originate in interdependence.  So how does this understanding influence how we help others? 

From the diamond sutra:
Why is it that a bodhisattva who creates the perception of a being cannot be called a bodhisattva?

To create a perception of a being we have consolidated in our thinking, an independent, isolated ‘self’ that doesn’t exist.  This statement really revolutionizes the understanding of a bodhisattva, doesn’t it?  This is quite different than our ordinary understanding of  ‘helping others’ or ‘saving all beings’.  It is a deeper expression of non-dual wisdom.  We should not hold back in any way our aspiration to enter this non-dual understanding.  Our enlightened task is to organize our life from ever-present, awakened, boundless, timeless, non-dual, non-individualized awareness.  In this way, we can, all of us together, find freedom.  As Buddha said, “I and the world together realize enlightenment”.

The Buddha recognized in his teaching the equal importance of wisdom and compassion, the two arms of the buddha or the two wings of enlightenment.  This is the second factor – an extensive compassion.  To see with the ominiscient eyes of the Buddha, is to be able to skillfully respond with unconditional love and right action to all aspects of the human predicament of suffering.

 In many of the later Mahayana teachings, the bodhisattva path becomes the means for a bodhisattva to become a Buddha.  There were many ways of cultivation but one of the most basic was is to cultivate the Paramitas or perfections.  (Generosity, Patience, Ethics, Zeal, Concentration, Wisdom) As I’ve already mentioned, even in this schema, all the Paramitas are sealed with the Paramita of wisdom.  In the ten Bhumis or stages of the Bodhisattva Path,  after the 7th ground of being, a bodhisattva is called a mahasattva.  Some bodhisattvas such as Samantabhadra are also said to have already attained buddhahood.

The third factor of a Bodhisattva is the presence of Bodhicitta, the mind of, or will towards, enlightenment.  It is not just an intellectual thought about enlightenment but a force or urge which completely transforms the life of the future bodhisattva.  This “mind” springs forth and encourages us on.  This is likened to Pranidhana, one of the 4 paramitas added on in later formulations of the Paramitas (the four additions:  skilful means, the vow to achieve buddhahood, power, and knowledge).

The urge, the energy, the vow to achieve buddhahood encourages us. We aspire to expound all the dimensions of Buddhahood in our life and practice, which in turns frees all beings simultaneously and helps us intuitively and automatically know what “help” means.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Cubist Enlightenment

Several years ago in the practice leaders study group, we were questioning what to study.  Ken Ford said, “Let’s study enlightenment!” We all laughed and balked.  Balked because it’s a tricky or scary question. We all should understand this thing we search for, ‘enlightenment’, but who does?  Can enlightenment be understood?  And yet, if we don’t have some understanding or framework, we can get remarkably off the track of an unselfish or non-“self”-oriented spirituality.  So, we began to study Dogen on enlightenment and we especially studied “Daigo, Great Realization” from the Shobogenzo.  Since then, I have been studying this fascicle, right side up and upside down, trying to clarify this essential question.

Dogen does not want us to have a fixed conceptual idea of enlightenment.  He does not want enlightenment to be a noun, a fixed state of mind, or worse yet, some experience that one has “once and everything is changed forever” or that you enter a vermillion tower in the sky, or that you transcend ordinary reality, never being mud-covered again.  He does not want “enlightenment” to have a solid space or a fixed time which would be counter to the desire to really taste open, boundless, timeless reality.  This reality is continuously combusting in every 6 and a half billion moments in the 24 hours.

Expounding in Dogen’s wonderfully poetic and non-linear literary style, he tries to show all the many facets of how inherent enlightenment is felt by humans.  He is like a 20th century cubist as he writes. (How irreverent to compare him to Gertrude Stein!) But his use of the combination word - practice-realization, is the beginning of trying to show enlightenment from every angle and particularly a non-dualistic point of view.

The different facets of enlightenment are seen from a Cubist view as different angles of the same thing and expressed by Dogen thus:

1.     The Great realization is manifested (kensho or satori).  This is the actual moment in life perhaps we could say the peak moments of life, when body-mind-heart are completely one.  When mind and environment are completely one.  When you have entered into non-thinking and wholeness.  This is often such a startling experience that we tend to cling to it and thus, unbeknownst to the experiencer, stumble into clinging and desire, the 2nd Noble Truth, and increase our suffering.

2.     The way is reached through no-realization (emptiness). We might call this mu-realization.  This experience is beyond conceptualization and beyond achievement.  The “enlightenment” disappears and we very naturally follow the practice of leaving no trace.  No person, no event, no path, no cessation, no enlightenment.

3.     Reflecting realization and freely utilizing realization.  We might call this u-realization or realization in form. In Daigo, Dogen calls this returning to delusion. One is able to reflect or utilize realization effortlessly in our ordinary life of the form world and the laws of cause and effect.  This is often reported as going into the briars and brambles and being covered with mud.  Dogen writes, “The Buddha ancestors freely played with mud-balls”.

4.     Losing realization and letting the practice go. In the end, enlightenment is a lot about being able to let go over and over and over and over in each moment.  Dogen writes, “Lose is enlightenment, gain is delusion.”  Living with the view of timelessness, we can relate to each moment’s arising with freshness.  In order to be fresh, one has to let go of the previous moment.  This is learning to be fresh in the flow of time.  This is learning to relax and let go completely, surrendering yourself to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.  Entrusting ourselves to the waves.

This many faceted expounding of the dharma of enlightenment, helps me let go of my previous notions and my linear sense of development.  It allows me to be free to receive this moment as it is as enlightenment.  This frees me from the burden of centralizing life around my self-centered needs and security and to be able to participate in life with a fresh wholehearted presence and with composure based on a very large, universal understanding of what’s going on. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Circle of the Way

Clouds in Water just finished a sesshin at Hokyoji Zen Community in Southeastern Minnesota.  I have been coming to this land and this place for at least 35 years. This land and place is so conducive to sesshin.  It’s simply a wondrous place to practice.  The mountains, valleys, birds, bells, grasses, tiles and pebbles are all the sounds and sights of the dharma singing and contributing to our awakening.

Reworking a quote from Dogen from Uji, Time-being:
The self that is deconstructed in time and space,
The self that’s contents is that of the ‘other’,
When practicing like this, we see that the self is the whole world.
Knowing in this way, there are myriads of forms and hundreds of grasses,
All things through the entire earth,
And yet each grass and each form itself, is the entire earth.
All the comings and goings are the dynamic Zenki, “the whole works.”
All is one and one is all.
All relations of forms and grasses, the whole earth and the self arise together.
Practicing with the self of the whole world in this way is the commencement of Buddhist Practice.

Buddhist practice is like a many faceted diamond.  All times and all efforts support the idea of a continuous practice.
Dogen describes this as the Circle of the Way.
The perpetuation of the Way is done through the activity and devotion of practice-realization which expresses itself through the activity of these 4 aspects.
  1. Aspiration
  2. Practice
  3. Realization
  4. Attaining the Buddha Way or Nirvana.

If you are experiencing yourself in any of these 4 ways, you are in the perpetuation of the Way.

a.     If you are aspiring to practice or to study, that is the Way.  Our intentions set the seeds for many blooms.  It is very important to keep your intentions strong and in the forefront of your mind.  We always hold our aspirations in our hearts.
b.     Study and practice the way.  From Shih-T’ou’s Song of the Grass Roof Hermitage : Study the Ancestors instructions, bind grasses to build a hut, and don’t give up.
c.      These are moments in our practice when we are actually manifesting oneness.  Subject and object are merged and the “I” subject is forgotten in the object of the moment and only pure activity remains. From Katagiri-Roshi: You can see yourself, your activity and your body and mind in the realm of emptiness, occupying the whole universe but this is beyond human speculations, concepts or ideas.
Attaining the Buddha Way or Nirvana
d.     Nirvana is not a place.  It is not a vermillion tower in the sky or a palace of pleasure.  Enlightenment is not an event that occurs in time.  It is a Way or a passageless passage.  We learn and can experience each moment as it arises, as Buddha, and the expression of the source of eternity.  Moment after moment, the way unfolds.  Each moment is the universe.  In this way we can find freedom and release in each moment of the Way of our lives.

From Katagiri-roshi:  When you practice this way, your practice is simultaneously touching the source of existence and blooming your particular flower right now, right here.  That is why practice is not apart from enlightenment.  Practice is enlightenment.