Friday, March 29, 2013

The household of the Buddha-ancestors is our house.


“The day to day activities in the household of the Buddha-ancestors, is our house, our life and our activity.  This doing and not doing, is imbued thoroughly with the total dynamic functioning of moment-to-moment reality.  Nothing is left out and there can be great peace and ease in this understanding.”  Dogen-Zenji.

A friend sent me this quote this week and it was a continuation of my last blog.  What I’ve been contemplated, particularly in Dogen’s “Uji”  is how to manifest the  Wisdom of Equality.

The household of the Buddha-ancestors is our house.  Our day-to-day activities are the life and activity of the Buddha.  Can our concentration and mindfulness be strong enough to make this an expression of our own very life and truth?  We need a lot of mental strength (concentration energy) to interrupt our swirling stories in our minds and land us in the experiential sensations of the here and now. To allow our feeling heart/mind to know that this here and now is connected with the whole universe.  When we are able to do this, we have relief.

“This doing and not doing” are BOTH the dynamic functioning of the truth.  It’s hard for a human mind not to cling to one side or the other as “right”. 

Our culture is such a “doing” culture.  Our values and praise are skewed towards accomplishment.  However, a value of non-doing might help alleviate our high stress and anxiety.  So for Americans, it’s usually that we need to make spaces for non-doing.  We learn to meditate.  We allow unbounded openness to touch our day-to-day activities.  But either way, concretely producing, or sitting in silence and openness, either way, we are involved in the dynamic functioning of life itself, of the Whole Works.  Nothing is left out.

Spirituality and meditation does not land us in a vermillion tower - a heaven that transcends our day-to-day activity.  Rather we are encouraged to see our ordinary lives from the view of One mind and the mystery revealed in every form or activity.

There can be great peace and ease in this understanding.  This is the beginning of radical acceptance, which can imbue everything with peace.  Our karmic lives cannot be escaped.  Our karmic life has to be accepted as it is and seen through as impermanent. 

Contrary to what we think Buddha said, the first thing Katagiri Roshi said to me in 1973 was, “You can’t escape pain.”  What does that mean in the face of Buddha saying that he came to teach freedom from suffering?  So this is our great koan.  How can we see our suffering and the activities of our karmic life as the great manifestation of the One Mind?  Through that investigation, our karmic consciousness and the Buddha-nature can be seen dynamically functioning together and forming the great household of the Buddha-ancestors.  Then, our karmic life is revealed and seen as a household of a Buddha.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Holding up the Moon


“Who sweeps the ground and also sees the moon?
Holding up the moon, her sweeping is truly not in vain.”  Dogen-Zenji from Eihei Koroku

Our chores and repetitive actions that are the nuts and bolts of human activity are not simply mundane and therefore inconsequential. These activity; brushing our teeth, washing the dishes, changing diapers, answering emails, walking to the mailbox etc are not unimportant or insignificant to the meaning of life. They are not to be rushed through or ignored all together or handed off for someone else to do.

My son asked me in an existential moment, “What is the meaning of life?  I answered, “The present moment itself IS the meaning.  Nothing extra.”

If we see life from this view, we see that each moment is complete.  Each moment upholds both the vast and the particular. Each moment is the actual expression of Buddha, and all our life becomes the field for this expression. 

As Dogen says, “In the whole world, nothing is hidden.”  Which means that we actually can clearly see and have a connection with the mystery in each moment.  In an ordinary mind, we don’t see that “doing the dishes” is connected with the whole of life and we can’t see this connection because our discursive thinking is still out of control and circulated madly within all our fabricated stories.  To have a direct mind, is to do all our activities as holding up the moon, as connected with the universal perspective, and therefore, nothing we do is in vain.  That eases my soul.  Nothing I do is in vain.  Nothing is just trivia and wasting my time.  I can take care with even the smallest thing - putting the paperclip back in its magnetic box.  When I can receive life as a whole, than each moment, extraordinary or ordinary, is enough.

As Katagiri Roshi writes,
“There is no fixed form for engaging the way.  It is about how to live intimately with all things.”

There is no fixed form for engaging the way.  Whatever is in front of our noses is the current form and that current form flows easily and without obstructions into the next form.  Whatever is in front of our noses is the Buddha nature, is life on life’s terms.  We welcome each impermanent form as it flows into the next form.  This is practice and the moment of realization both. There is no form that is essentially more “spiritual” than another.  A ritualized form such as the morning service does not have an intrinsic value that is higher than, say, going to the bathroom.  They both are expressing the Buddha nature, which is held within their own uniqueness. And yet, both types of experience mutually influence each other.  We begin to realize the “wholeness” intrinsic in life.  To intimately penetrate what is in front of our noses, is to penetrate the whole works.  Nothing more.

Katagiri roshi continues by saying,
“Just be in the process of living
for which there is no fixed form
together with all things
with the true mind, the sincere mind and purity.

This “purity” is not opposed to dirty or sinful.  It is not an evaluative word.  This purity means to directly and clearly, contact, without clinging, this exact experience.
Dogen calls this, “penetrating exhaustively”.

Dogen writes from Uji, Beingtime:

Entirely worlding the entire world with the whole world
Is thus called penetrating exhaustively…….
One does nothing but penetrate exhaustively entire time as entire being. 
There is nothing remaining left over.

Monday, March 11, 2013

As long as demons exist in the world


"As long as demons exist in the world, they have their own reason to exist. The reason is completely beyond our human speculation, but demons exist in Buddha's world. So we have to find the realm of buddhas within the realm of demons. In other words, in the realm of pain and suffering, we have to find the realm of peace and harmony. This is religious practice. You cannot find any peace by escaping from human pain and suffering; you have to find peace and harmony rights in the midst of human pain. That is the purpose of spiritual life."
                                                       Katagiri-Roshi

It’s hard for American’s to use the mythological word “demons”, but trouble always exists in our world.  Greed, anger and ignorance arise endlessly from our four Bodhisattva Vows.  We have to find the realm of buddhas within the realm of demons.  In other words, in the realm of pain and suffering, we have to find the realm of peace and harmony.  This is religious practice.

We have to find a way to accept on life’s terms what is happening in our karmic, historic life AND to knead it or ventilate it with our understanding of Buddha nature, that which is complete and whole no matter what is happening on the surface and in the appearance of our life.  How does that wholeness or dynamic function of form and emptiness work on a daily basis to help us stay upright with equanimity through the hurricanes and tornadoes of our karmic life?

One way is to stay in touch with the total dynamic functioning of life through daily prayer and meditation.  So that our experience of freedom or universal perspective as Katagiri Roshi called it, is not very far away from our daily consciousness.

Another way is to take very profoundly the teaching that Every moment is complete.  Every appearance is the expression of the source.  I have been having a feeling of connectedness with the source in my daily life by using two mindfulness practices.

 I have been trying to pause at doorways.  Sometimes I do it as poorly as catching 15% of doorways on a given day, and other days I might go up to 60%.  But no matter how well I do, it definitely has invited me more into presence.  I take an inhale and then I say what I see on the other half of the doorway.  I’m in the kitchen.  I’m in the parking lot.  I’m in my office.  I’m in the zendo.  Often I add, this moment is enlightenment. This has really been great!  It is getting me into thinking of enlightenment not as a certain state but as a continuous line of immediacy.

The other mindfulness practice I have been doing is a body practice where you feel the backside of your body during activity, especially for me, during public speaking or when I feel anxious (which is often :)).  I slightly pull myself back into my body, noticing the back half of my body and it just automatically changes the energy of my “pushing to accomplish something” or “my wanting a certain result to my activity”.  It really centers me.

In order to have demons and buddhas live in the same complete moment as the transformative process of spiritual life, one has to have no preferences.  “The way is not difficult for those who do not pick and choose” (from Trust in Mind).   That means, through our religious practice, we are building our capacity to maintain our equanimity or uprightness no matter if the present appearance is either side of the "8 worldly winds":
·      Pleasure or pain
·      Gain or loss
·      Praise or blame
·      Success or failure

This is why Katagiri Roshi writes:
You cannot find any peace by escaping from human pain and suffering; you have to find peace and harmony rights in the midst of human pain. That is the purpose of spiritual life."


Saturday, March 2, 2013

Babaji’s Instructions


I just received a T-shirt from Gentle Dragon, a priest at Clouds in water.  She got it at Mount Madonna Retreat center in California which centers around the teachings of Baba Hari Dass.

On the back of the T-shirt it says:

·      Work honestly
·      Meditate everyday
·      Meet people without fear
·      And Play.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Small practices with Big Resonances


Until April 7th, Clouds in Water Zen Center where I practice and teach is in a Winter/Spring practice period.  We are experimenting with an option for practice period that focuses on home practice.  We are committing to do:

·      Begin the day by refreshing your intention. 
o   Bow once (a full bow), staying down for tharee full breaths to relax and focus. 
o   Recite the verse for beginning the day
o   Review your commitments
·      During the day, take time to relax and focus at least once.  Wherever you are, sit quietly, note what’s happening in your body mind and feelings and focus on breathing.  (5 or more minutes)
·      End the day by taking stock and letting go.
o   Bow once for three full breaths
o   Review your day and identify any regrets and joys you have about your behavior.
o   Recite three verses: atonement, ending the day verse, and dedicating the merit.

These small things, that anyone can do, have a powerful effect.  I’m still always surprised!  When I first started practice, I thought only major effort could moves the mountains of blockage that I felt.  Anything less, small mindfulness practices for example, were, I thought, stupid and not effective.  I remember the first time I heard about the three breath meditation, which is to pause anytime, anywhere, and breath three conscious breaths and relax, I thought “that can’t possibly work.” Too insignificant.

It took me many years to see that these small things have a profound effect.  I have changed my intention from a concept that I was going towards a future that had a “Great Realization” in it, to an aspiration to have a “continuous line of immediacy” in my 24 hours.  All of a sudden, these small practices that you do amidst the daily activities of my life had much greater significance.  The small practice of returning to a direct experience of this moment becomes a deep and profound practice.  This is it! The repetitive regularity of a daily spiritual structure becomes even more purposeful. 

This practice period’s instructions are the basis for a daily spiritual structure that can remind us of our true aspiration and our true practice. I think this simple structure is really the basis for spiritual life in all religions. A daily religious structure gives us the underpinnings for truly being able to manifest the present moment of “just this!”

I admire the Muslim tradition of praying 5X’s a day.  They also add the power of doing this in community.  The whole culture stops and prays together. Wow.  Or in the Jewish tradition of the Sabbath, the whole community is bound together in worship even though you are an individual family in your own home. As I am doing the morning and evening bowing and chanting at home, my feeling is empowered by knowing that all the people who have committed to practice period are doing it too.

Keeping alive our intentions and working with the review at the end of the day really focuses our mind to the task at hand and supports our deeper vows.  How easy to get “tossed away” as Katagiri-Roshi used to say, with the stories and busyness of our daily life.  With this structure, we are actually emphasizing our spiritual intentions and re-enforcing them.

Seize this day to express practice/realization.  Don’t wait for a future time, which strictly speaking, doesn’t exist.  Strengthen the “remember” part of the famous instructions – Remember, Be, Here, Now.