Recent Dharma Talks

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

  • Friday, December 05, 2014 8:25 PM | Anonymous

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    THIS PRECIOUS OPPORTUNITY TOGETHER

    December 4, 2014 Rohatsu 2014 Bellingham

    Let’s reflect a minute on how rare, how precious, this opportunity to practice together is. So many factors have to be present for us to be able to do this. Of course each of us made some kind of choice to be here. To show up. Sometimes we notice that level of condition, our own choice, or own motivation. But it goes much deeper than that, doesn’t it?

    Spend a moment feeling your breathing. Feeling the body. Feeling contact between the body and the cushion or the chair. Giving yourself to yourself. Dropping in.

    Not perfectly comfortable maybe, not utter joy and contentment may, but pretty good eh? A body and mind that can sit, can practice. Be with that a moment

    Now visualize someone you know, or have known, who wouldn’t be physically able to be here. So many people are ill. Bedridden. For so many people just keeping alive is the main thing. Or maybe someone who was hurt or in an accident. The frustration of losing mobility and being stuck somewhere. I was visiting a Zen student yesterday who’d just moved to Bellingham, very excited to come practice with us. She went out to dinner with her brother. On her way out the door after a nice meal her foot caught on something on the floor. Down she went breaking her arm and her leg both. She’s been stuck in a rehab place for nearly two months now. I’ve been trying to encourage her to practice there but it’s not easy. Conditions are more challenging than we are enjoying. This really happens to people. So visualize yourself in that situation. Ill. Hurt. Broken. Unable to come to the zendo or receive teachings.

    Feeling the feeling of that. How would you practice?

    And return to the feeling of being here. Now. Ah….

    And now visualize someone who suffers from a serious mental disability. Retardation of some kind. Dementia. Alzheimer’s. There’s a day treatment facility for adults with autistic spectrum in town, sometimes you see a group of those folks walking around downtown with their supporters. They give off some happiness for sure but they are not going to be able to practice in the way we are in this lifetime. So many people just lack the mental resources to do spiritual practice.

    Imagine if you were in that situation. What would that be like? Can you get inside that and feel into it. Would everything that happens be disorienting? A surprise? Maybe you can think of a time you were really disoriented and confused? Or just imagine the roughness of that kind of mind.

    And return to the feeling of being here. Now. Ah….

    Now think of the many people throughout history, and now, who live in situations where the luxury of spiritual practice would be unthinkable. People living in war zones. People living with intense economic hardship. I often remember a powerful encounter with a homeless who was hungry that I had during one of our weekend retreats with Norman at the old place on State Street. The folks living under our bridges are just trying to stay warm this morning, figure out how to get some food or some basic needs. And of course we have so many war zones all over the world. I read a wonderful thriller set in Somalia and Kenya which helped remind me of the daily existence and poverty there. There are no meditation retreats. What would it be to live as a refugee or a homeless person. Day to day to day to day. Be in those shoes.

    And return to the feeling of being here. Now. Ah…

    Lastly visualize the great teachers and spiritual masters who practiced so diligently to develop these ways of practice. To drop through the projections and craziness of their minds. Many of them practicing with very little support. So isolated, either physically or spiritually and emotionally. We don’t really know what it was like for Suzuki Roshi and Katagiri Roshi coming to America in the 50’s. Barely speaking the language. Conflicting demands and requests on them. The people around them not having any context for this practice. We highlight the ways they celebrated the openness of that – beginner’s mind – but I’m sure it was also really tough. Disorienting. I don’t think they magically knew just how to present Zen practice. What to emphasize? What to leave out? When to correct the students’ form and understand? When to just give them time to grow into it. What if they never get it? We romanticize them now but I’m sure it was pretty tough. Put yourself in their shoes. How hard to keep going sometimes!

    And return to the feeling of being here. Now. Ah…

    This opportunity to practice is so precious. So rare. And how easily we get distracted. How easily the mind focusses on our dissatisfactions and issues. Not that we can’t bring up our issues – we can and we should – but what do we hold closest to our hearts? Do we show up whether we feel like it or not? In the traditional Buddhist scheme this birth as a reasonably healthy human being who somehow is able to practice the Dharma is extremely rare. Extremely precious. Let’s do our best to bring that thought back to mind throughout our retreat. And if you’re visiting for the talk, you too can practice in this way out in the busy world.

    Speaking of Suzuki Roshi, our Rohatsu Buddha’s Enlightenment sesshin is a celebration of ancestors. We celebrate Buddha and we celebrate the chain of men and women who’ve practiced from Buddha’s time to now. We celebrate that aspect of this precious moment now. This sesshin brought to you by Buddha and company.

    Since we are in the Suzuki Roshi and Katagiri Roshi lineages here I thought we’d appreciate some words of Suzuki Roshi together. I was looking through a treasure trove of digital dharma files I have and found a folder called “SR Archive” which turns out to be all of the transcripts the students at San Francisco Zen Center made of his talks. They are arranged in date order so I thought it might be interesting to read the earliest one.

    TEACHER AND DISCIPLE, Shunryū Suzuki-rōshi, December 1961 and February 1962

    Emptiness does not mean annihilation; it means selfless original enlightenment which gives rise to everything. Once selfless original enlightenment takes place, very subjective and objective existence resumes its own nature (buddha-nature) and becomes valuable jewels to us all.

    In Mahāyāna Buddhism every teaching is based on the idea of emptiness, but most schools emphasize its expression in some particular sutra—the Lotus Sūtra, the Avatamsaka-sūtra, the Mahāvairochana-sūtra, and others. In Zen we do not emphasize the teaching until after we practice, and between practice and enlightenment there must not be any gap in our effort. Only in this way it is possible to attain the perfect enlightenment from which every teaching comes out. For us it is not teaching, practice, enlightenment; but enlightenment, practice, and the study of the teachings. At this time every sutra has its value according to the temperament and circumstances of the disciples.

    This “gap” is an important teaching. Not turning away from what’s arising now is how I understand it. Not pulling ourselves away. Being right there. Right there with everything that arises. Breathing it in. Merging with reality. With what Suzuki Roshi called “things as it is.”

    Confusingly a similar concept of finding the space between stimulus and response as things come at us is an important skill in practice too. We find a spaciousness so we aren’t led around by the nose by our judgments and resistances. We learn in that space to see this is just what it is I can be with it.

    So oddly the practice of feeling into the spaciousness is the same as the practice of no gap. It’s a question of point of view or language.

    So it is the character or personality, the cross-current of teacher and disciple, that makes transmission and real patriarchal Zen possible—practicing from the point of view of the enlightenment of the Buddhas and patriarchs. So the relationship between the teacher or Zen master and disciples is quite important for us. By believing in one’s master, one can attain his character and the disciple or student will have his own spiritual unfoldment.

    This is a central idea in Zen and also in Tibetan Buddhism and probably other schools too. Less so in the Thervadadin Buddhism that informs Vipassana where the teacher is seen as more of a spiritual friend. The traditional understanding in Zen is that the teacher embodies something that cannot be expressed in words. And an experienced teacher is an essential element in our practice.

    The aspect of me, Tim Burnett born in La Jolla, California in 1966, which operates in words through my personality and history feels a little funny talking like this though. I am apparently sitting in the teachers seat and giving a teaching but I do not feel special or wise or enlightened in a self-conscious way. I don’t go around making too many brilliant insightful remarks like a mythical Zen master either.

    And it might be that’s just your bad luck that we are entering the age of ordinary teachers. Suzuki Roshi was operating in the age of Special Teachers. And in that situation he was empowered to do lots of special things and his surviving students still talk about the amazing things he said and did and his presence. I remember Norman complaining about that at one point. They’d have a special celebration of say, the 50th Anniversary of SF Zen Center’s founding, and round up all of the surviving Suzuki Roshi students they could find who would then tell the same old stories they always tell. Wonderful stories though.

    But there’s another aspect of this where it might be this archetype of the teacher and student is alive and well. Fully functioning. It’s more subtle and you have to hang around a while to even notice it. A long term practitioner who’s received some support to practice in an insightful way does embody something. There’s a feeling to it that’s hard to describe.

    One time I went to Norman’s house in California to spend the day with him learning how to do the calligraphy on the back of the rakusu people receive in the jukai precepts ceremony. Norman and I hung out all day and practiced that. He made me some really tasty coffee and a nice lunch. We went for a walk in the neighborhood. He didn’t give me any particular teachings or advice. We just spent a quiet day together.

    And when I got back to where I was staying that night I noticed how different I felt. How much more grounded. A sense of depth and appreciation for this human life. It was really striking once I noticed it. I think my sister in law pointed it out actually and I was like “yeah…you’re right!”

    Norman was just present with me. And come to think of it I don’t remember him having to veer off to attend to other things all day. Maybe he answered a phone call at some point I don’t remember but he was really there with me. He was present. And it wasn’t like he was doing me a big favor or felt like he was “working” that day. We were just enjoying our companionship in the Dharma. And it was a really profound day I will never forget.

    Maybe if we’re lucky here in Bellingham and in Seattle we can be that kind of teacher for each other. Each in our own way. It’s not about spiritual zingers. It’s about being deeply together. Walking the path together.

    Suzuki Roshi goes on and tells a story from the ancestors

    Once when Yakusan-zenji was asked to talk about Buddhism he said: “There is the teacher of scriptures, there is the scholar or philosopher of Buddhism, and then there is the Zen master. Do not acknowledge me.” Day after day, from morning until night, he behaved like a Zen master. “Why don’t you acknowledge me” is what he meant. To practice Zen with disciples, to eat with them and sleep with them is the most important thing for a Zen master. So he said, “Why don’t you acknowledge me? I am a Zen master, not a teacher of the scriptures or a philosopher.”

    So we say, “Only to sit on a cushion is not Zen.” The Zen master’s everyday life, character and spirit is Zen. My own master said, “I will not acknowledge any monastery where there is lazy training, where it is full of dust.” He was very strict. To sleep when we sleep, to scrub the floor and keep it clean, that is our Zen. So practice is first. And as a result of practice, there is teaching. The teaching must not be stock words or stale stories. But must be always kept fresh. That is real teaching.

    But we do not neglect the teaching or sūtras of Buddha. Because we want to find out the actual value of the teaching, we practice Zen and train ourselves to have the actual living meaning of the scriptures. But this practice must be quite serious. If we are not serious enough, the practice will not work and the teaching will not satisfy you. If you have a serious friend or teacher, you will believe in Buddhism. Without an actual living example it is very difficult to believe or practice. So to believe in your master and be sincere—that is enlightenment. So we say, “Oneness of enlightenment and sincere practice.”

    I didn’t know it at the time, but the first problem given me by my master was this story about Yakusan-zenji, which I have just told you. I could not acknowledge my master for a pretty long time. It is quite difficult to believe in your teacher, but we must know our fundamental attitude toward Buddhism. That is why Dōgen went to China. For a long time he had studied in the Tendai school, the very profound, philosophical school of Buddhism, but still he was not satisfied. Dōgen’s problem was, “If we already have buddha-nature, why do we have to practice? There should be no need to practice.” He was quite sincere about this problem.

    I do worry a little if we’re serious enough here. It’s a subtle thing to be serious in a wholesome way. Not too heavy. Not judgmental or too precious. Not reinforcing the illusion of our separateness or the illusion of our incompleteness.

    I worry that I’m not devoted enough to the Dharma. And it’s okay I can practice with that worry and be with it. Try to invite it to encourage me to sit every day and show up for my life. To not lay any trips on anyone else but to be upright in my own life.

    We can see the effects of taking this seriously in an uwholesome way. That feeling of never being good enough. Not living up to some kind of idealistic monastic vision. And we can see the effects of not taking it seriously at all. We know that “everything is practice” but that is so damn easy to misunderstand. But each of will have our own expression. Not everyone can come to the zendo all the time. And I have to admit I worry about this point a bit as I said.

    So I’ll just invite each of us to consider: what does serious practice look like for me? What’s the right way? We need some encouragement sometimes to work through our desire for comfort and our laziness but do we turn it into self-aggression if we try too hard. It’s a subtle and important point.

    Buddha-nature, you know, is neither good nor bad, spiritual nor material. By buddha-nature, we mean human nature. To be faithful to our nature will be the only way to live in this world as a human being. So we call our nature buddha-nature and accept it, good or bad. To accept it is a way to be free from it; because we do not accept it, we cannot be free. If the idea of human nature exists in your mind, you will be caught by it. When you accept it, you are not caught by it. So to accept does not mean to understand it psychologically or biologically. It means actual practice. No time to be caught, no time to doubt.

    A more eloquent way of exploring this question of what our practice is about. Are we trying to improve ourself? Or are we trying to understand the actual nature of the self. I love the active verb in this sentence: “We call our nature Buddha-nature and accept it, good or bad.” We need to call out to our life. Call out to the world. Call out to each moment. Engage. Re-engage. And accept the answer that comes back in response to our calling. And this acceptance is not a self-conscious kind of psychological understanding. Dogen reminding us over and over that we may not know enlightenment in a self-referential cognitive way. It’s a deeper feeling than that.

    Dōgen tried to be satisfied with some teaching or answer which was written, but as long as he was concerned only with the teaching, it was impossible to be satisfied. He didn’t know what he wanted, but as soon as he met Zen Master Nyojō[1] in China, he knew. Dōgen was quite satisfied with Nyojō’s character and Nyojō said to Dōgen, “That I have you as a disciple is exactly the same as Shākyamuni Buddha having Mahākāshyapa.” So that was the relationship.

    The teachings come to live in embodied relationship with real people. This is so easy to miss. We like to make things abstract. And we like to make them our own in a way that limits the teachings. The teachings are bigger than that. Nyojo by the way is the Japanese version of Dogen’s teacher Ryujin’s name.

    In this way, Zen teaching and understanding is transmitted. Nyojō said, “You must transmit this teaching to someone.” This looks as if he were trying to bind the disciple, but once you understand what he actually said, everyone you meet and everything you have becomes valuable to you. So Dōgen said, “Everyone is your master, don’t pay any attention to whether they are a layman or priest, a woman or man, young or old. Everyone is your teacher and your friend, but as long as you discriminate this from that, you will not meet a Zen master.”

    If we are real Zen students, we sleep where we are, eat what is given to us, and listen to the teacher, good or bad. The teacher may say, “How are you? If you answer, I will give you a hit, if you don’t answer I will give you a hit.” He doesn’t care what you think about it. If you get hit with the stick, you will get something. Whether the answer is right or wrong, whether you get hit or not, is not the point. So Dōgen said, “If you want to listen to a Zen master for absolute truth, you must not think about his rank, his accomplishments, deeds, or shortcomings. Accept him just as he is because he is a bodhisattva.” That is the right attitude toward life—just accept it. If your attitude is right, everything you hear will be Buddha speaking. Then the master is not teacher or student, but Buddha himself.

    This last part is quite a relief because I myself don’t feel so accomplished. And that’s okay.

    Let’s practice carefully and fully together in this retreat. It will be over before we know it. Please don’t waste time. And the way to not waste time is to forget about time, forget about you. Just keep showing up. Just meet everything fully, with no gap. When there’s no gap there’s no me, no you, no zendo, there’s just this. And our willingness to enter fully into just this without any holding back is a great gift to ourself, to the world. That’s truly making wise use of the precious opportunity of human birth.

     

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

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    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

    Podcast: Play in new window

    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

    Podcast: Play in new window

    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

    Podcast: Play in new window

    Fourth talk at the 2014 Samish Island Sesshin.

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

    Podcast: Play in new window

    Continuing discussion of the Metta Sutta.

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

    Podcast: Play in new window

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

    Downloadable Word Doc of: Metta Sutta Translations compared


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