Saturday, June 28, 2014

Karen Maezen Miller's "Weeds"

I am just going to quote what I found in Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly, in the summer 2014 issue.  This is taken from Karen Maezen Miller's book: Paradise in Plain Sight published by New World Library, May 2014

From Karen Maezen Miller:

"In these sixteen years of gardening, I have not yet learned how to garden.  My most useful tools are the ones farthest from my hands: sun and water.  I have not planted a single thing still standing.  In all this time in the yard, I have cultivated no worthwhile skills save one that is decidedly unskilled:  I weed.

I offer this up as a modest qualification because I have noticed how reluctantly most people bring themselves to the task.  Weeding is not a popular pastime, even among gardeners.  Weeds are the very emblem of aversion.  Weeding doesn't produce a rewarding outcome.  No grand finale, no big reveal. There's absolutely nothing to show for it.

While I was casting about for something to do for the rest of my life, I hit on a scheme.  I'd seen how common it was for an otherwise respectable yard to be surrendered over to the wilderness for the lack of a spade.  And the worse it got, the worse it gets.  I suggested to my husband that I start an enterprise - not for landscape design or decoration, for which I was unsuited, but just for weeding.  I would call it "Just Weeds."  I would go over to people's houses every week and just pull weeds - probably weeds they didn't even know they had! I thought it was inspired, but he thought it was lame.  So instead I do it every day for no pay.  This is how your life becomes rich with purpose.  You take care of things that lie right under your feet, and no one even notices.

The most common weeds in the yard are crabgrass, dandelion, and chickweed.  The most common weeds in the world are greed, anger, and ignorance.

This is the way to weed.  Anchor yourself low to the ground so you can get a good look at what you're dealing with.  Use a spade to loosen the hardpack and go deeper.  The next part is tricky.  Take hold of the stem and apply your attention, allowing the root to release.  Haste and carelessness will only aggravate the situation.  Sometimes you can get the root on the first tug.  Other times you'll just tear off the top.  Even if you don't get it all the first time, that's okay.  It may take two or three, ten or twenty, one hundred thousand million times to get the root completely.  Just keep going along like that, encountering the next weed that appears in front of you for the rest of your life."

Friday, June 20, 2014

Vital Creativity

“Karma” has been a word that has been usurped by our society.  Everyone uses that word, Buddhist and non-buddhist alike,  but how terribly misunderstood that word is.  We have just done a sesshin at Hokyoji Zen Community where we investigated the teachings on Karma.  Particularly we read Katagiri Roshi’s book,  Each moment is the Universe, part 5, Creating the Future.

We usually think of Karma as a heavy burden we drag around after us.  Some people use it to mean fate or destiny, that which we have no control over and shapes our life.  In that case, we don’t have any free will.  Some people use “karma” to get out of responsibility for their actions or their life by flippantly saying, “Oh, its my karma.”

But, do you know what Katagiri Roshi calls Karma?  Vital creativity and Eternal possibility!  That makes me smile.  My memory of Katagiri’s teaching is so pro-living. Living our life as it is. 

This Vital Creativity has to do with practice-realization in each moment.  Karma is nothing more than how a “moment” gets conditioned by the fragrance of our past actions (and many infinite conditions, both personal and non-personal).  The past conditions this moment and yet, the past doesn’t actually exists.  We then condition the future by how we react to this moment.  The future is conditioned by “now” but the future doesn’t actually exist.  So all time; past, present and future, arise mutually in the only time there is – this moment. 

Katagiri Roshi writes: “To accept your past karma completely is stillness.”  Radical acceptance of the difficulties of the present moment and our personal suffering is the road to stillness.  “Settling the self into the self.”  It has taken me a long time not to fight who I am or what conditions have existed in my past;  personal conditions, ethnic conditions, political conditions, race, history, etc.  We have no control over the past conditioning that produced the present moment.  All we can do is deeply accept this moment and feel the raw truth of the moment.

Where we do have some leeway is how we react to this raw truth.  How do we react to this moment?  In full ego reactivity (me, me, me) or practicing to come from our highest wisdom and from the precepts.  We can actualize seeing this current moment with Buddha’s eyes.  This is a pivotal active or creative moment.  In this moment, perhaps we could say,  we have a choice or we have free will.  We can choose to use the laws of causality, in this moment, deliberately and intelligently.  Each moment we can interrupt our habitual and delusional reactions to the past conditioning and we can plant a wholesome seed.  Can we settle into this moment exactly as it is and then give back to the moment a good seed for the future. We can create the future.
This is what Katagiri Roshi calls Vital creativity.

And it is endless.  Eternal possibility, Katagiri Roshi calls karma.  Dogen says we have six and a half billion moments in a day.  Each moment is an opportunity to go a-planting.  There is an enormous Buddha field in each day.  It’s endless.  Always a choice, always change, always a possibility to plant something good.  The seedling could be mustard seed size.  It could be any of the spiritual qualities.  It might be just relating to this moment’s arising with compassion.  If the conditions warrant, it might be repentance or forgiveness for past wrongs.  

This is the great thing about “everything changes.”  We can move and change along with everything else.  We don’t have to get stuck by our limited thinking and the momentum of our habitual reactions.

Katagiri writes,

page 213,
“To find a peaceful life, first of all you have to settle yourself in the self and in everyday life.  According to the rule of causation, if you do something, you will get a result more or less immediately.  So you have to get a taste of that result:  good, bad, or neutral.  Then in the next moment you have to be free from causation.  That means you return whatever feeling you get from your experience into eternal possibility.

Page 211:
“At this time, cause is not something separate from result and result is not something separate from cause.  Cause and effect are one.  Freedom from causation is emptiness.  Anytime, anywhere, you can be free from your karmic life, because your karmic life is going on in Buddha’s world.  That is the reality of one step.  The next step.  To live your life freely, in peace and harmony, all you have to do is wholeheartedly take care of one step in every moment.  This step is not separate from life, it is the full aliveness of life, interconnected with grass, water, your feelings, your body, and many things.  In one step there is a peaceful life.”

Monday, June 16, 2014

Oryoki at McDonalds

I’m in 7-day sesshin at Hokyoji Zen Community in S.W. Minnesota.  I have come here for almost 40 years now and have a profound appreciation for the deep core of Zen that can be practiced in this environment.

Today during Oryoki, which is the procedure for a formal meal in the zendo, I thought of a story I heard in the past.  In the 70’s, I practiced at Dai Bosatsu Zendo for a few years and heard this story:


Students had picked up Hakuun Yasutani Roshi and were traveling in the car to get to the Monastery.  He was hungry and asked to have a meal on the road and pointed to a McDonalds and said, “Let’s eat there!”  The students tried to discourage him, pointing to other places they could eat but he still wanted to eat at Mcdonalds.  They stopped and pulled into the parking lot.  He bought a hamburger, fries and a coke, preceded to sit on the bench outside in the fresh air and do oryoki!  He folded the paper wrapper into a lotus placemat, he arranged the food, one, two, three like his bowls in the zendo.  He then ate with great care, mindfulness, and joy, with his students.