Weekly Quotation

What Place Could Not Be a Buddha-land?

Posted by on Jul 17, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

“What place could not be a Buddha-land? Therefore, when we want to circulate the truth of the Buddhist ancestors, it is not always necessary to select a perfect place or to wait for fortunate circumstances. Shall we just consider today to be a starting point?” Dogen Zenji, the Founder of Japanese Soto Zen

Shinshu Commentary:

Every place is a Buddha-land. Buddha-lands are places where Buddha’s live. Who is a Buddha? We are all the embodiment of a Buddha’s nature, although we may not always respond as such. Dogen is encouraging us to remember that in this Buddha-land, filled with our joys and sorrows, practice happens here. It happens wherever you are standing, sitting, walking or lying down. Moment-by-moment we say “why not start now?” Even thought we might resist practice, we make our best effort.

One day Zen Master Dogen asked his students: “Shall we just consider today to be a starting point?”

“Yes!” the assembly responded.

Dogen held up his whisk, making a circle in the air.

 

 

Practicing In A World of Suffering

Posted by on Jun 19, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Fred Rodgers of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood

Shinshu’s Commentary

This inspiring quotation has gone viral, so you’ve probably read it or heard about it. Anthony Breznican, who writes for Entertainment Weekly, repeated Fred Rodgers’ comments after the suicide bombing in Manchester.

In our school, the question arises: “If we all have buddha nature, why do people do evil things to each other?” Unfortunately, our Buddha-nature is often obscured by our delusion, much as a rain cloud blocks our view of the blue sky. Also, we live in the buddha-field of Shakyamuni Buddha and a characteristic of our world is suffering-delusion. It is this very suffering and delusion that encourages us to wake up and realize our inherent Buddha-nature. In our world one does not come without the other. This is why the Buddha said, “There is suffering” and called it the First Noble Truth. It is the premise from which we begin practice.

So the question becomes “what is it,” rather than “why is it.” Once we come around to how things are, we can begin to find an appropriate response. The Helpers are the people who look around and ask themselves “what can I do?” and act. This “what can I do?” must also be combined with “what is needed?” regardless of the “why” of a situation. In Buddhism we call these people Bodhisattvas. They are the first responders.

We are inspired by the helpers and our attention becomes redirected from our discouragement, bewilderment, helplessness and anger. It is our Buddhist practice, to be both encouraged and encouraging. Practice-realization is the action of the helper-bodhisattva-first responder. May we all be inspired to follow the path of these bodhisattvas.

Just This World

Posted by on Jun 19, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

The zazen I speak of is not learning meditation. It is simply the Dharma-gate of repose and bliss. It is the practice-realization of totally culminated enlightenment. It is things as they are in suchness. Eihei Dōgen Fukanzazengi: Universal Promotion of the Principles of Zazen

Shinshu’s Commentary:
As we clear away the cares and concerns of human relationships, what can be heard? Sitting zazen, listening to the sounds of the world, we immerse ourselves in Buddha’s Way. Buddha’s Way is just this world in harmony, knowing connection and response. Living-dying we hear a bird, living-dying we feel a breeze and we know it is our world, just-this-moment-all-being. We don’t have to rush out to meet it, we just have to stop and let it come forward.

I Am the Most Honored One

Posted by on Apr 10, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Thus have I heard, that one day as the queen was strolling through the Garden of Lumbini, “she leaned on the limb of an Asoka tree which dropped down because of the weight of its flowers. At that moment, the Bodhisattva was born, suddenly and yet peacefully. Immediately after birth, he took seven steps in each of the four directions and proclaimed, ‘In heaven above and on earth below, I am the most honored one, I shall dispel the suffering that fills the world.'” His name was Siddhartha which means One Whose Goal is Achieved. [This version of the Buddha’s Birth is from a Chinese translation of the Sanskrit sutra, Lalita-vistara Sutra (The Extensive Play: meaning Buddha’s life was a display to benefit all beings)]

Shinshu Commentary:

Who is this ‘I’  who saves all beings? One interpretation is that the ‘I’ to which Siddhartha referred is the universal ‘I’ of all being/beings. This ‘I’ resonates throughout space and time, as the person known as Siddhartha and as the mandala of totality. Who awakens? How does awakening become and express? There is no awakening without the affirmation of all beings simultaneously practicing and affirming. At the moment of ‘I’ awakening is all of spring bursting forth. The flowers of the Asoka tree, the women in Maya’s assembly. It is the robin on your lawn and your own arising this morning. Nothing is left out, no time is not present. In delusion we strive to awaken. In realization we express ‘I’ and save all beings. This is our true face, one spring, every spring, springing springs endlessly expressing.

Practicing When Distracted

Posted by on Dec 12, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

“If you can practice when distracted, you are well trained.”

Slogan 22 of the Root Text of the Seven Points of Training the Mind compiled by Chekawa Yeshi Dorje.

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This is one of the major teaching in Buddhism: continuing to practice skillfully in the midst of difficulties. Of course, we cannot expect ourselves to immediately be able to practice when we are beset with distracting worries and troubles. In order to do that we must make effort continuously with small problems and worries. This builds our practice muscles which in turn enables up to pick up the heavy load of major difficulties.

When we work very diligently with problems that are within our current abilities we can feel satisfaction and encouragement over our successes. We are also able to better discern what is actually happening in our life as we work with the issues that are directly in front of us. What this means, for example,  is that we work on becoming a patient and compassionate driver of our car. Or we focus on becoming better listeners. We practice our skillful means with strangers as well as our family and friends.

Practicing with family and friends can sometimes feel more difficult because we are deeply invested in the outcome of our actions and theirs. So, this can be harder than practicing in public arenas. On the other hand, it is sometimes easier to be selfish when we think we don’t know anyone and there will be no repercussion for our misdeeds. Either way we have to make our  best effort.

We are now experiencing social and political upheaval that is quite distracting and difficult. We may be afraid or angry about our current circumstances. Or we might be happy and disconcerted by the reaction of people around us. In either case, we have to double down and practice even harder. Start small, keep at it, be curious, rejoice when you are successful, and atone when you fail.

Shinshu

A Quiet Temple in the White Dew

Posted by on Apr 11, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Time passes, spring to autumn; the temple is quiet, white dew dense, Through crickets near the window run their looms, they do not add ne thread for this poor monk.

 By Zen Master Ryokan from Sky Above, Great Wind: the Life and Poetry of Zen Master Ryokan. Kazuaki Tanahashi

Shinshu’s Commentary:

It’s not so hard to imagine Ryokan in the quiet autumn dusk listening to the crickets. His temple is surrounded by hoary frost in a still cocoon. In his poem, Ryokan refers to the first koan in the koan collection Book of Serenity “The World Honored One Ascends the Seat.” In this koan the Buddha takes the teaching seat while Manjusri makes a rather grandiose introduction. The Buddha immediately gets off the seat and leaves the room. The commentary points out that Manjusri rather states the obvious and that the Buddha’s very life itself is the teaching. The verse that accompanies the koan’s commentary is: The unique breeze of reality—do you see? Continuously creation runs her loom and shuttle, Weaving the ancient brocade, incorporating the forms of spring, But nothing can be done about Manjusri’s leaking.

Crickets running their loom, a temple in the mist, and a monk in attendance are all each one thing or one being’s activity. Yet, that activity is the totality of our world. Time passing, seasons turning, and in midst of this is our continuous activity. The cricket’s loom produces the same ancient brocade woven by Creation. Each and every thing is running the loam of reality. The “poor monk” is not in need of a single thing. To mention the added thread is like Manjusri’s leaking. Manjusri states what is already apparent to those who can see. We live in the world of form and leaking is the human condition. We say it is enough, and yet….and yet? Not one threat can be added.

Posted by on Apr 11, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

bathroom floor

In Bodaisatta Shishobo, Dogen Zenji wrote:

To leave flowers to the wind, to leave birds to the seasons are the activity of dana (giving).

 

Shinshu’s Commentary:

A endless meadow of flowers, and flocks of birds overhead, how we long for nature. Yet, when it is inconvenient or gets in the way we easily forget our bodhisattva vow to benefit all beings, not just human beings. An ant walked across my bathroom floor this morning and this weekend they found the sugar. I left the ant alone who walked across what must have been a vast terrain of tiles and put the sugar in the refrigerator.

Everything Deserves Our Effort

Posted by on Apr 11, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

 “Everything deserves effort because it makes an effort to grow.”

Chef Niki Nakayama from Chef’s Table a Netflix series

towelsShinshu’s Commentary

Even though we may not know how something has come about, we can honor the effort each thing has made throughout its life. When we fold a towel, the whole universe’s effort is in the fibers of the cotton of that towel. Furthermore there is the effort of the machines and people who made this towel for us to use. Growing, dying, birthing, increase and decrease are all the activity of the world’s effort.

Dogen wrote about the continuous activity of each thing making the world. Without that continuous activity we could not be alive. Cultivating our sensibility toward the effort of each thing, will help our bodhisattva practice of gratitude and generosity. It will have the benefit of calming our mind. Folding a towel with the same care that we take with something we consider more valuable, will change how we are with everything and every person we encounter. We will become more grounded and integrated with the totality of what already is. Our anxiety will be soothed, our inattention will be clarified, our generosity will flourish. And here’s the best part, we are surrounded by opportunities to do this practice.

Shinshu

 

Tired of Fanning

Posted by on Jan 27, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

 

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March 4, 2015: Weekly Quotation

Zen Master Ryokan wrote:

My hand is

tired of fanning,

but where should I set it?

 

At the end of Dogen’s Genjokoan, Dogen relates this story:

 

As Zen master Pao-ch’e of Mount Ma-yu was fanning himself, a monk came up and said, “The nature of wind is constancy. There is no place it does not reach. Why use a fan?” Pao-ch’e answered, “You only know the nature of the wind is constancy. You haven’t yet grasped the meaning of it reaching every place.”

“What is the meaning of its reaching every place?” asked the monk.

The master only fanned himself. The monk bowed deeply.

 Shinshu’s Commentary:

Master Ryokan is probably referring to the story of Pao-ch’e and the monk in his poem. The monk asked Pao-ch’e about the relationship between our essential buddha nature and practicing. Buddha nature means we are all in a family relationship…the whole world is making effort to enact life. This life is always present, but if we are to bring forth the beauty of our family situation, we must engage with our life and the lives of others. It is only through actually doing practice that our (and all beings) can enjoy this life. This practice is called “fanning.” Where is the breeze created by fanning when we are not swishing the fan back and forth? Is it gone? Is it always available? The state of buddha nature (breeze) is always present,  but the activity of practice (fanning) is necessary in order to enact wisdom and compassion (raise and move the air).

In Ryokan’s poem, he is expressing his frustration with his practice. Ryokan was a great Zen master so it is heartening to hear that he too sometimes felt discouraged.  I think it is human nature to say “I need a rest!” If we feel that fanning is too hard, we should look at how we are engaged in our effort.  But there is also the last line of Ryokan’s poem which expresses a deep faith in practice. He asks “But where should I set it down?” We can’t set  it down. Our life calls to us to pick up the fan, keep going. Since our practice goes on endlessly, we want to find a way to do this practice that is sustainable. How we make effort is sometimes a great koan. If we push too hard and are critical of our effort, it sets us back. If we make too little effort we do not progress. Examining the “how” of our activity is key to maintaining our effort.

Please be kind to yourself and others…but not too lazy!

Wondrous Suchness

Posted by on Jan 27, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Dogen Zenji

Dogen Zenji Wrote:

“Appearing before my eyes is wondrous suchness.

Outside of this reality, why trouble dividing true from false?

Seeing colors, hearing sounds, both fully verify it.

Stepping forward and turning within both softly cry out the way.”

 

Shinshu s Commentary:

Dogen is addressing a monk named Wondrous Suchness. But don’t stop there, aren’t you, with all beings wondrous suchness as well?

Is there anything outside of this very moment? If this is true, what is false? [The tricky part of this line is that we often understand a statement like this to mean that we do not need to discern what is right and wrong action. It is exactly this discernment that is within the realm of the Way. This is not an invitation to do whatever you feel like or to put up with another’s harmful actions. Be skillful! Be skillful!]

Seeing the colors and hearing the sounds of the world, verifying each and everything thing. The true nature of no-self is to understand one’s place in and with the whole world.

What or who steps forward? What or who turns within? Isn’t this the yin and yang of each being? Do we step forward? Or turn inward? Both? What do you see? Who or what verifies and joins us? Like Kannon, who hears the cries of the world, the world cries out the Buddha Way.

Aren’t “wondrous suchness” and “softly crying” both the Buddha’s Way? How human to seek one and reject the other. Yet there is no difference. One arises, one fades, both come and go. Wondrous Suchness! Crying out the Way.

 

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