Recent Dharma Talks

Talks by sangha and visiting teachers. Use the page controls to see older talks or see the topical pages listed above.

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  • Wednesday, November 26, 2014 8:43 PM | Anonymous

    Podcast: Play in new window

    Blue Cliff Record Case 6:

    Yun-Men taught by saying, “I do not ask you about before the 15th of the month. Come, give a phrase about after the 15th:”

    He himself responded, “Every day is a good day”

    What I love about the Zen koans is how they don’t explain but they show. Master Yunmen shows his gratitude in this story. His complete appreciation for every day. Whether it’s a day we like or a day we don’t like. Whether it’s the full moon or before the full moon or after the full moon.

    Yunmen lived in the 9th century – 860 to 949. These Zen masters lived a long time. 89 years old when he died. He was seen later on as the founder of one of the Five Houses of Zen.

    He is found often in the traditional koan collections. 18 times in the Blue Cliff Record that this case is found in.

    He is the subject of one of many famous and somewhat violent Zen stories.

    While a boy, Yunmen became a monk under a “commandment master” named Zhi Cheng in Jiaxing. He studied there for several years, taking his monastic vows at age 20, in 883 CE.

    The teachings there did not satisfy him, and he went to Daozong’s school to gain enlightenment. According to a legend, first mentioned in 1100, he had his leg broken for his trouble:

    Ummon [Yunmen] went to Bokushu’s temple to seek Zen. The first time he went, he was not admitted. The second time he went, he was not admitted. The third time he went the gate was opened slightly by Bokushu, and thus Ummon stuck his leg in attempting to gain entrance. Bokushu urged him to “Speak! Speak!”; as Ummon opened his mouth, Bokushu pushed him out and slammed shut the large gate so swiftly that Ummon’s leg was caught and was broken.

    We don’t push so hard in our temple here. But I think we should be clear that there is a real place to devotion and discipline. It’s okay to take this practice seriously.

    And it’s good to learn how to relax and put it all down.

    I do not ask you about the day before Thanksgiving; come, say something, about what happens the day after Thanksgiving?

    Every day is a good day.

    Every day is a day to offer thanks.

    I had a challenging interaction with some colleagues yesterday morning. They were questioning some of my choices and how I’d expressed a few things. They were actually very careful to be kind and supportive in how they brought this up. And I could feel myself taking it in, and starting to shut down. It didn’t feel like a good day any more.

    And as I hung out at home that night I thought about this conversion. The morning I woke up I thought about it. It came and went all day. It distracted me a bit when I was out walking with my wife. My mind was on the conversation and I wasn’t really there with her part of the time. And then this afternoon, somehow it lifted. I could feel it lifting. When it was settled on me I couldn’t quite imagine that possibility of it just lifting. It felt like something I had to solve and figure out. I wrote a long email which, thankfully, I didn’t send. While in this state. In my journal I wrote that I realized I’d been “enflammed” and enflammed state. This will happen in our sangha conflicts too. We enter a disoriented state and we have one attitude, one approach.

    Sometimes if we can just be with it it will shift or life and then we have a different situation. There is still stuff to work out with those colleagues but it doesn’t have the same fear and urgency that it did. I return to a wise place. I return to gratitude. I return to every day is a good day.

    Maybe one day we can learn to rest in every day is a good day….every day. I don’t know. But I do know it’s a space we can return to. It’s a space we can feel. It’s a space we can stand in even when there’s no where to stand. And from that place we can be kinder, clearer and wiser. Compassion and wisdom are found there.

    John Tarrant is a Zen teacher from New Zealand who teaches in California and I understand does a weekend retreat in Seatlte once a year – we should all try to go. He’s big on koans and working with them in a very flexible way.

    I found some comments he made on this case.

    The teacher said, “I’m not asking about before the full moon, say a word or two about after the full moon.”

    The teacher answered the question, “Every day is a good day.”

    Gratitude comes with a feeling of openness, shyness, vulnerability. The person who is grateful can be hurt or rejected, she is taking a risk. With gratitude, there is more at stake, life is not small.

    Gratitude can surprise me just the way a poem or a song can surprise me, and fling me into another wider air. When the ancient Chinese thought of waking up as intimacy, they were referring to an appreciation for trees and rivers, an appreciation so strong that it amounted to identification—what’s outside of us is us too. They also meant that our own innermost experience leads us outward to connect.

    Gratitude is an impulse that creates a community, it’s my contribution to living with others. It doesn’t happen to me as a solo Ronin meditator practicing the dark arts of consciousness alone in a hut. Because of this and because other people are always doing unexpected things, gratitude has to confront anti-gratitude, bitterness, and despair. If we want to speak for gratitude we have to go down into desolation,damage, and hurt and find space to breathe exactly there. In that way gratitude is a path, as much as a feeling; it asks me to look where I’m putting my feet.

    Gratitude is what we feel for every single thing that occurs since we would rather be alive than not, would rather be here than not and perhaps our only job is to celebrate being here, being happy for each other.

  • Sunday, November 23, 2014 8:10 PM | Anonymous

    Podcast: Play in new window

    Shuso Chris Burkhart discussed the Chinese Zen poem “Song of the Jewel Mirror Samadhi” which is chanted as part of the Soto Zen liturgy.

    Talk is continued with Part 2.

    Song of the Jewel Mirror Samadhi Composed by Dongshan Liangjie (Tozan Ryokai)

    The teaching of thusness has been intimately communicated by buddhas and ancestors. Now you have it, so keep it well.

    Filling a silver bowl with snow, hiding a heron in the moonlight – taken as similar they’re not the same; when you mix them, you know where they are.

    The meaning is not in the words, yet it responds to the inquiring impulse.

    Move and you are trapped; miss and you fall into doubt and vacillation. Turning away and touching are both wrong, for it is like a massive fire. Just to depict it in literary form is to stain it with defilement. It is bright just at midnight, it doesn’t appear at dawn. It acts as a guide for beings, its use removes all pains. Although it is not fabricated, it is not without speech.

    It is like facing a jewel mirror; form and image behold each other – you are not it, in truth it is you. Like a babe in the world, in five aspects complete; it does not go or come, nor rise nor stand.

    “Baba wawa” – is there anything said or not?

    Ultimately it does not apprehend anything because its speech is not yet correct.

    It is like the six lines of the illumination hexagram: relative and ultimate interact – piled up, they make three, the complete transformation makes five.

    It is like the taste of the five-flavored herb, like a diamond thunderbolt.

     

    Subtly included within the true, inquiry and response

    come up together. Communing with the source, travel the pathways, embrace the territory and treasure the road. Respecting this is fortunate; do not neglect it.

    Naturally real yet inconceivable, it is not within the province of delusion or enlightenment.

    With causal conditions, time and season, quiescently it shines bright. In its fineness it fits into spacelessness, in its greatness it is utterly beyond location. A hairsbreadth’s deviation will fail to accord with the proper attunement.

    Now there are sudden and gradual in which teachings and approaches arise. Once basic approaches are distinguished, then there are guiding rules.

    But even though the basis is reached and the approach comprehended, true eternity still flows. Outwardly still while inwardly moving, like a tethered colt, a trapped rat -the ancient sages pitied them and bestowed upon them the teaching.

    According to their delusions, they called black as white; when erroneous imaginations cease, the acquiescent mind realizes itself.

    If you want to conform to the ancient way, please observe the sages of former times. When about to fulfill the way of Buddhahood, one gazed at a tree for ten eons, Like a battle-scarred tiger, like a horse with shanks gone gray. Because there is the common, there are jewel pedestals, fine clothing; Because there is the startlingly different, there are house cat and cow.

    Yi with his archer’s skill could hit a target at a hundred paces. But when arrow-points meet head on, what has this to do with the power of skill?

    When the wooden man begins to sing, the stone woman gets up dancing; it’s not within reach of feeling or discrimination – how could it admit of consideration in thought?

     

    Ministers serve their lords, children obey their parents; Not obeying is not filial and not serving is no help. Practice secretly, working within, like a fool, like an idiot. Just to continue in this way is called the host within the host.

  • Sunday, November 23, 2014 7:51 PM | Anonymous

    Podcast: Play in new window

    Shuso Chris Burkhart discussed the Chinese Zen poem “Song of the Jewel Mirror Samadhi” which is chanted as part of the Soto Zen liturgy.

    The discussion began with part 1.

    Song of the Jewel Mirror Samadhi Composed by Dongshan Liangjie (Tozan Ryokai)

    The teaching of thusness has been intimately communicated by buddhas and ancestors. Now you have it, so keep it well.

    Filling a silver bowl with snow, hiding a heron in the moonlight – taken as similar they’re not the same; when you mix them, you know where they are.

    The meaning is not in the words, yet it responds to the inquiring impulse.

    Move and you are trapped; miss and you fall into doubt and vacillation. Turning away and touching are both wrong, for it is like a massive fire. Just to depict it in literary form is to stain it with defilement. It is bright just at midnight, it doesn’t appear at dawn. It acts as a guide for beings, its use removes all pains. Although it is not fabricated, it is not without speech.

    It is like facing a jewel mirror; form and image behold each other – you are not it, in truth it is you. Like a babe in the world, in five aspects complete; it does not go or come, nor rise nor stand.

    “Baba wawa” – is there anything said or not?

    Ultimately it does not apprehend anything because its speech is not yet correct.

    It is like the six lines of the illumination hexagram: relative and ultimate interact – piled up, they make three, the complete transformation makes five.

    It is like the taste of the five-flavored herb, like a diamond thunderbolt.

     

    Subtly included within the true, inquiry and response

    come up together. Communing with the source, travel the pathways, embrace the territory and treasure the road. Respecting this is fortunate; do not neglect it.

    Naturally real yet inconceivable, it is not within the province of delusion or enlightenment.

    With causal conditions, time and season, quiescently it shines bright. In its fineness it fits into spacelessness, in its greatness it is utterly beyond location. A hairsbreadth’s deviation will fail to accord with the proper attunement.

    Now there are sudden and gradual in which teachings and approaches arise. Once basic approaches are distinguished, then there are guiding rules.

    But even though the basis is reached and the approach comprehended, true eternity still flows. Outwardly still while inwardly moving, like a tethered colt, a trapped rat -the ancient sages pitied them and bestowed upon them the teaching.

    According to their delusions, they called black as white; when erroneous imaginations cease, the acquiescent mind realizes itself.

    If you want to conform to the ancient way, please observe the sages of former times. When about to fulfill the way of Buddhahood, one gazed at a tree for ten eons, Like a battle-scarred tiger, like a horse with shanks gone gray. Because there is the common, there are jewel pedestals, fine clothing; Because there is the startlingly different, there are house cat and cow.

    Yi with his archer’s skill could hit a target at a hundred paces. But when arrow-points meet head on, what has this to do with the power of skill?

    When the wooden man begins to sing, the stone woman gets up dancing; it’s not within reach of feeling or discrimination – how could it admit of consideration in thought?

    Ministers serve their lords, children obey their parents; Not obeying is not filial and not serving is no help. Practice secretly, working within, like a fool, like an idiot. Just to continue in this way is called the host within the host.

  • Thursday, September 04, 2014 8:12 AM | Anonymous

    A series of 7 talks given at a study retreat and a public meditation in San Miguel de Allende, México, in August 2014. The first 6 talks are in English and Spanish, the last talk is only in English.

    Una serie de 7 lecciones dictadas en un refugio de estudio y una meditación pública en San Miguel de Allende, México, en agosto de 2014 Los primeros 6 conversaciones son en Inglés y Español, la última charla es sólo en Inglé

    Talk #1

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    Talk #2

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    Talk #3

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    Talk #4

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    Talk #5

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    Talk #6

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    Talk #7

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    Attached is an essay on Shariputra, it is in English only. (Se adjunta un ensayo sobre Shariputra, es sólo en Inglés.): The Life of Sariputta – Nyanaponika Thera

    Also here are the poems read during the retreat. / También aquí están los poemas leídos durante el retiro.

     

    ONE MORNING – Rosemerry Trommer

    One morning
    we will wake up
    and forget to build
    that wall we’ve been building,

    the one between us
    the one we’ve been building
    for years, perhaps
    out of some sense
    of right and boundary,
    perhaps out of habit.

    One morning
    we will wake up
    and let our empty hands
    hang empty at our sides.

    Perhaps they will rise,
    as empty things
    sometimes do
    when blown
    by the wind.

    Perhaps they simply
    will not remember
    how to grasp, how to rage.

    We will wake up
    that morning
    and we will have
    misplaced all our theories
    about why and how
    and who did what
    to whom, we will have mislaid
    all our timelines
    of when and plans of what
    and we will not scramble
    to write the plans and theories anew.

    On that morning,
    not much else
    will have changed.

    Whatever is blooming
    will still be in bloom.

    Whatever is wilting
    will wilt. There will be fields
    to plow and trains
    to load and children
    to feed and work to do.

    And in every moment,
    in every action, we will
    feel the urge to say thank you,
    we will follow the urge to bow.

    ~ Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

    Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

    Chapter I

    I walk down the street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I fall in.
    I am lost… I am hopeless.
    It isn’t my fault.
    It takes forever to find a way out.

    Chapter II

    I walk down the same street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I pretend I don’t see it.
    I fall in again.
    I can’t believe I am in this same place.
    But it isn’t my fault.
    It still takes a long time to get out.

    Chapter III

    I walk down the same street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I see it there.
    I still fall in… it’s a habit… but,
    my eyes are open.
    I know where I am.
    It is my fault.
    I get out immediately.

    Chapter IV

    I walk down the same street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I walk around it.

    Chapter V

    I walk down another street.

    -Portia Nelson from here’s a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery

    Llámadme por mis verdaderos nombres – Thich Naht Hahn

    No digas que partiré mañana
porque todavía estoy llegando.

    Mira profundamente: llego a cada instante para ser el brote de una rama de primavera, para ser un pequeño pájaro de alas aún frágiles que aprende a cantar en su nuevo nido, para ser oruga en el corazón de una flor, para ser una piedra preciosa escondida en una roca.

    Todavía estoy llegando para reír y llorar, para temer y esperar, pues el ritmo de mi corazón es el nacimiento y la muerte de todo lo que vive.

    Soy el efímero insecto en metamorfosis sobre la superficie del rio, y soy el pájaro que cuando llega la primavera llega a tiempo para devorar este insecto.

    Soy una rana que nada feliz en el agua clara de un estanque, y soy la culebra que se acerca sigilosa para alimentarse de la rana.

    Soy el niño de Uganda, todo piel y huesos, con piernas delgadas como cañas de bambú, y soy el comerciante de armas que vende armas mortales a Uganda.

    Soy la niña de 12 años refugiada en un pequeño bote, que se arroja al mar tras haber sido violada por un pirata, y soy el pirata cuyo corazón es incapaz de amar.

    Soy el miembro del Politburó con todo el poder en mis manos, y soy el hombre que ha de pagar su deuda de sangre a mi pueblo, muriendo lentamente en un campo de concentración.

    Mi alegría es como la primavera, tan cálida que abre las flores de toda la Tierra. mi dolor es como un rio de lágrimas, tan desbordante que llena todos los Océanos.

    Llámame por mis verdaderos nombres para poder oír al mismo tiempo mis llantos y mis risas, para poder ver que mi dolor y mi alegría son la misma cosa.

    Por favor, llámame por mis verdaderos nombres para que pueda despertar y quede abierta la puerta de mi corazón, la puerta de la compasión.

     

    Call Me by My True Names – Thich Naht Hahn

    Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow because even today I still arrive.

    Look deeply: I arrive in every second to be a bud on a spring branch, to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile, learning to sing in my new nest, to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower, to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

    I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry, in order to fear and to hope. The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death of all that are alive.

    I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river, and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time to eat the mayfly.

    I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond, and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence, feeds itself on the frog.

    I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones, my legs as thin as bamboo sticks, and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

    I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat, who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate, and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.

    I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my hands, and I am the man who has to pay his “debt of blood” to, my people, dying slowly in a forced labor camp.

    My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all walks of life. My pain if like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.

    Please call me by my true names, so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once, so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

    Please call me by my true names, so I can wake up, and so the door of my heart can be left open, the door of compassion.

    Notes from Thich Naht Hanh about “Call Me By My True Names”

    In Plum Village, where I live in France, we receive many letters from the refugee camps in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines, hundreds each week. It is very painful to read them, but we have to do it, we have to be in contact. We try our best to help, but the suffering is enormous, and sometimes we are discouraged. It is said that half the boat people die in the ocean. Only half arrive at the shores in Southeast Asia, and even then they may not be safe.

    There are many young girls, boat people, who are raped by sea pirates. Even though the United Nations and many countries try to help the government of Thailand prevent that kind of piracy, sea pirates continue to inflict much suffering on the refugees. One day we received a letter telling us about a young girl on a small boat who was raped by a Thai pirate. She was only twelve, and she jumped into the ocean and drowned herself.

    When you first learn of something like that, you get angry at the pirate. You naturally take the side of the girl. As you look more deeply you will see it differently. If you take the side of the little girl, then it is easy. You only have to take a gun and shoot the pirate. But we cannot do that. In my meditation I saw that if I had been born in the village of the pirate and raised in the same conditions as he was, there is a great likelihood that I would become a pirate. I saw that many babies are born along the Gulf of Siam, hundreds every day, and if we educators, social workers, politicians, and others do not do something about the situation, in twenty-five years a number of them will become sea pirates. That is certain. If you or I were born today in those fishing villages, we may become sea pirates in twenty-five years. If you take a gun and shoot the pirate, all of us are to some extent responsible for this state of affairs.

    After a long meditation, I wrote this poem. In it, there are three people: the twelve-year-old girl, the pirate, and me. Can we look at each other and recognize ourselves in each other? The tide of the poem is “Please Call Me by My True Names,” because I have so many names. When I hear one of the of these names, I have to say, “Yes.”

     

     

  • Wednesday, August 27, 2014 10:48 AM | Anonymous

    Podcast: Play in new window

    4th and final talk on the Metta Sutta. See talk #1 for downloadable materials.

  • Sunday, August 03, 2014 11:09 AM | Anonymous

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    Continuing with the Metta Sutta and a nice discussion of the non-conditionality of loving kindness practice.

  • Thursday, July 17, 2014 6:38 PM | Anonymous

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    Fourth talk at the 2014 Samish Island Sesshin.

  • Tuesday, July 15, 2014 11:28 AM | Anonymous

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    Continuing discussion of the Metta Sutta.

  • Wednesday, July 09, 2014 11:42 AM | Anonymous

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    This first talk on the Metta Sutta includes a guided meditation on loving kindness.

    Downloadable Word Doc of: Metta Sutta Translations compared

  • Friday, June 20, 2014 6:52 PM | Anonymous

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    Seventh, and final, Dharma Talk at Samish Island Sesshin 2014.

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