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World Healing Day

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,





This morning I offered a prayer at our local World Healing Day vigil. It is the third time, I believe, I have been invited by the religious community here to do so. Various clergy were present, as well as congregational members from different faiths. It seemed the theme this year was eliminating the things that separate us. I chanted the first part of the Heart of Wisdom Sutra and offered words regarding the three poisons, their antidotes, and the process of receiving and giving in terms of healing. My heart was with those who believe borders are necessary, as I see this need as based primarily in fear.



Afterwards, at breakfast, a participant talked with me about his concern that “illegal’s” are getting resources we cannot afford. He has a point. Medical care is expensive, especially when it is done through ERs. ERs are pretty much the sole source of care for the uninsured He thought children born in the US of illegal’s parents should not be…

McDonalds

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



At McDonald’s this morning getting an Egg McMuffin without Canadian Bacon, an order which baffles the young man taking it. He wasn’t quite sure what to do and, in spite of searching the little keys on the register, the price kept coming up as the same as that with the bacon. This, he said, was what caused his confusion. I agreed. It seems that a corporation as large and wealthy as McDonald’s could figure out a way to have the “No Canadian Bacon” key reduce the price of the sandwich, but apparently, this is not the case. We call this greed.

One might ask, “Roshi, why eat at McDonald’s then?” I might reply, “Brilliant idea!” The trouble is, these pesky critters are everywhere and open all hours. On the road, the consistency of quality can be pretty much counted on. Whereas, the Mom and Pop operations, which do not have fancy cash registers that lock choices to a very narrow range, are not known quantities.



Eating at McDonald’s is not a good …

A Trip

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



After an early morning Zazen practice with Student Yubao, Suki enjoyed a one mile run in the desert. I was less happy with it. My training has gone to pot and there is no way I will be able to run a 5k let alone a half marathon anytime soon. So, re-grouping, I will target a date in the spring. Vowing to restart my training program on the first, I will do what I need to do to make training happen. There is a Half Marathon in El Paso the first weekend of March. Hmmm.



Last night we visited Both Sides/No Sides Sangha in El Paso whilr Rev. Kajo graciously hosted Zen 101 for us. In El Paso, we arrived just as the bell was being invited to ring. Rev. Bobby Kankin Byrd was very warm and welcoming. I offered a Dharma talk on aspects of the Genjokoan. The drive home was a challenge though. I am certainly not as young as I used to be and, even though I am often awake late, suffer from serious sleepiness after 8:00 or so. We needed to stop and rest at t…

Events

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Good Morning Everyone,



This coming Saturday Clear Mind Zen Temple will offer Zazenkai to any who wishes to participate in an extended practice period. We will begin at 8:00 AM and close at 4:00 PM. Practices will include Zazen (seated meditation), Kinhin (walking meditation), Samu (work meditation). Oryoki (eating meditation), and Study. If you are interested in joining us, please let me know ASAP.



Today: Zazen at 7:00 AM, Zen 101 led by Rev. Kajo at 6:00 PM followed by Zazen at 7:00 PM. Jiisha Soku Shin and I will travel to El Paso this afternoon to join Both Sides/No Sides Sangha for their weekly evening practice.



There are three study groups offered through our Temple: Zen 101 (currently studying the Fukanzazengi) on Tuesday evenings at 6:00 PM); Zen Group (currently studying the Compass of Zen at 4:00 PM Friday), and Women in Zen (meets on Thursdays at 5:30 at our residence).



Don’t forget Tai Chi Chih, the Joy of Movement practice on Wednesday at 4:00 PM! Clic…

A Day

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



This morning dawns as we pulled together the Zendo after a lovely, if not odd, dinner last night. The meal Soku Shin and I planned failed at the very last minute! Thanks to Soku Sin’s daring we salvaged the meal by turning spinach gnocchi into an egg frittata. And then there were the pies that did’nt get baked well enough…Still, no one seemed to notice as everyone was thoroughly enjoying themselves.



We really do enjoy having people at the Temple for a meal together. There is something about eating together that is so human and so unifying. Perhaps we will establish a meal tradition where one day a week we open the Temple to the public for breakfast and Zazen.



We also paid a visit yesterday to Rev. Kankin in El Paso at his home. It was very good to see him, again and his family, as well. Kankin is a poet of the first order with several volumes of his work in print. He took us into his poet’s office and it felt so much like home. From there w…

Samu

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Good Morning Everyone,



This morning at 7:00 AM we practiced Zazen at the Temple. Student Yubao and I sat for two periods and practiced one short round of kinhin. I then went to the Veteran’s Park, but no one came to sit. From there, I went to the apartment and now am back at the Temple. I have cleaned the Zendo floor, oiled the wooden ceremonial items, and made a new practice schedule.



Work practice, or “samu” is considered a very important contemplative practice. We work with complete mindfulness. Samu is not about completing the task, but rather, its about entering the task and becoming one with it.



This is it. When polishing the floor, do it with exactly the same mindfulness as polishing the Buddha or cleaning the toilet. Samu should be a graceful practice, regardless of the task. A teacher might come by and say, “Not good enough!” To which we would bow and continue. The “not good enough” is, more often than not, not about the work itself, but rather, our atti…

Zen

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,

Please indicate whether you would like to attend a Friday Discussion and Zazen tomorrow at 4:00 PM by reply.

My apologies to Member Rose for not getting back to the Temple in time for Tai Chi Chih. It seems we were delayed on business in T or C, NM. Soku Shin and I went there to meet our webmistress and re-imburse her for the new ISP service. We also shopped for statuary and found a lovely Kwan Yin for the ceremonial table. Soku Shin herself found a beautiful Medicine Buddha. On the way back to the Temple we needed gasoline and that became a techno-nightmare. Needless to say, we didn’t get into town until after 5:00.



Recently, I have begun training our evening students how to use the various instruments that are used during a service. We tend to have 3-4 people so one gets the mokugyo; one gets the large bell, one the small bell, and one, the inkin (acting as timekeeper).



It is a delight to see the ensemble at work. Students are getting the …

No Sound

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



This morning I am awake to the sounds of silence. What sounds are those? The sound of no-sound. No-sound is the sound of presence. Just this, as it is, with nothing added.



No-sound, like no-seeing or no-thinking, is a serious challenge for us and so it is core to our practice.



When we walk and we think we are walking are we walking? Is this Zen in motion? Or is Zen in motion just walking? Consider this.



When I say I am awake to the sound of silence, to no-sound, it simply means there is no I in the “I am.” “I am” is nothing more or less than a fiction derived from language. How can this be? Where is the “I” in the sudden close-by crack of thunder? Practice no-sound. Practice no-I.



Be well.



A reminder: Tai Chi Chih today at 4:00, Zazen at 7:00 PM

Morning Note

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Good Morning Everyone,





First, I want to thank you for your generosity of heart. It is important that our sangha finds support for itself through its members. Second, I want to invite each of you to write to me personally with your thoughts or questions or request a Skype personal interview. I am at your service.



Our online sangha is struggling right now. There is a conflict about our sangha asking for donations and the linkage between my teaching and donation. As I see it, my teaching belongs to the sangha and a sangha is composed of members. The question is what constitutes membership? In my view, the main element is a commitment to practice. The key word is commitment. A commitment is more than a word, it is an word turned into action. A commitment without action is hollow.



What sort of action? From my point of view, the very least is a communication stating one’s desire to be a member. Add to that a financial commitment (practicing generosity), a social action c…

Nothing to Attain

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Good Morning Everyone,



In the Heart Sutra we are told that everything is empty. Everything changes, that is, so nothing is either what it appears to be or what it is. We have no eye, ear, nose, tongue, no body, no mind and therefore there is no seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting or touching, and no thinking. Yet, there they are when we look in a mirror: eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind. When we practice Zazen, when we enter the stillpoint, these fall away, meaning we experience truth.



In the largest context all things are not things at all. All is one, nothing is separate. This thing over against that thing is an illusion perpetrated on us by our brain. Yet, even so, when entering the stillpoint, even one is no more. For one to have any reality, there must be another, two. So, not even one is real: no wisdom and no attainment; there is nothing to attain.



This morning we practice Zazen at 9:00 AM in the Zendo. The Zendo is home to the Sangha. Please join us.



B…

Practice

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



This morning was lazy. I woke with my alarm, but immediately went back to sleep. Suzuki-roshi said that he had to learn to jump out of bed as soon as his eyes opened in order to get up. I failed to jump. Consequently, I did not get to the temple and am at home working. Besides, Qwest lost Internet service at the office yesterday afternoon. Another one of those “24-48 hour” question marks as to when service will be back up. So, Suki and I went for our little business walk at a reasonable hour. And I am now cozy with my coffee and computer. Still, I need to get to the Temple, as one never knows…



Yesterday a young man walked into the Temple and wanted to tell me about his knowledge of Zen. I invited him to practice, but he really wanted to talk. His presentation of himself went from what he had read to how so many others were so judgmental, to how Buddhism changed his life and helped him turn his life around. I admire him. He came from a commun…

Notes

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Good Morning Everyone,



Notes:



Today we will host Zen 101, our Introduction to Zen Study Group, at 6:00 PM. We follow this with Zazen at 7:00 PM. This is a very enjoyable group as we are taking a close look at the fukanzazengi written by Master Dogen at the beginning of his career teaching in Japan. Anyone is welcome to attend, but the group is for lay people relatively new to the practice.



Our Women in Zen group is getting started soon. If you are interested, please contact Rev. Kajo at greatfiregoddess@yahoo.com. This group will be podcast, as well.



We are changing web providers for our Clear Mind Zen website soon. Be advised the site will go down for 24-48 hours when the switch happens.



We are producing a handbook for the practice of Zen in our Order. We will make it available to anyone who wishes to purchase a copy. I expect it will be in the neighborhood of $25.00 plus shipping, but as it is not yet completed, I cannot say for sure the price. If you would be i…

A Closed Society?

With palms together



Good Morning Everyone,







So, the morning arrives with a whisper. I shave my head and clean the razor, make the coffee and read my morning mail. It is a typical morning, but for the hour. For some reason I woke at about 2:30 AM…it might be due to the fact that I went to sleep just after dark. Hmmm, note to self, try not to do that.







I re-read that post by Naomi Wolf from Huffington. I then took a look at the Espionage Act itself and how it has been enforced, as well as some other acts. The Military Commissions Act of 2006, for example, gives the president or his appointee the power to declare anyone (including ordinary American citizens) an “enemy combatant.” I fear Naomi Wolf is onto something.







Here are her ten steps to a closed society:







10 steps that close an open society



1. invoke an internal and external threat



People who are afraid are willing to do things that they wouldn’t otherwise do.







2. establish secret (unaccountable) prisons where torture takes place



In a…

Books and Friends

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



Finally, we are completing a serious task at the Order. We have the initial version of our “Shingi” or standards for the Order collected into a book form. Rev. KoMyo and I will have a pdf version available soon. I have sent all of the sections to each priest within our Order for their review. I want to make this text available to any member of the Order, including lay members.



I also have my book, “Living Zen: A Diary of an American Zen Priest” in the process of being a print on demand text through Amazon.com’s company, CreateSpace. It will be available as a paperback and as a Kindle downloadable book. It is currently being copy edited by student Jill Freeman in PA., as well as by my Teacher, McGuire-roshi, who has agreed to author the preface. My partner and Jiisha, Soku Shin, is also adding her valuable insight to the text.



I will keep you apprised of the progress of these texts and let you know when, exactly, they will be available.



Over…

The Zen of...

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



When we talk about Zen, we do not talk about Zen. Zen is impossible to actually talk about. Its rather like the Dao, if it can be spoken, its not the Dao. We “talk about” rather than experience. Zen is not even to be experienced, though, as to experience it is to be it and to be it means there is no one separate from it. All of our talk should be nothing more than fingers pointing to it: we must release ourselves into it and the “it” I refer to is reality.



As Daido Loori-roshi pointed out, there are many Gates of Zen. He catalogued eight, but in fact, there are myriad gates. If our attitude is correct, anything we do is a dharma gate. My use of attitude here is similar to the one used by pilots of aircraft where attitude is four-dimensional.



To enter the gate, we must release ourselves. This release is really very simple, children do it all the time, as do adults: we all just are not aware that it is what we are doing when we are doing it.…

Monthly Dues and Dana Request

Good Morning Everyone,

We have had a very good year with lots of Temple building and Sangha building efforts. Feedback has been nothing but positive. Our sesshin fees are very, very low at $25.00 for a full weekend. I am suggesting we increase these fees to $50.00.

This is the last month of the year. For those who wish to offer dana to the Temple, please do so, we are always in need. I think it would be wonderful if those who consider themselves sangha members make a monthly pledge.

I propose the following:

Friend of the Order: $5.00 per month

Associate Member: $10.00 per month

Member: $25.00 per month.

Sustaining Member: $50.00 per month

Great Benefactor; $75:00 + per month.

Friends, Associates, and Members will pay $25.00 for sesshin/zazenkai/retreats and will be asked for $25.00 for any ordination ceremony

Sustaining Members will pay $15.00 for sesshin/zazenkai/retreats and will be asked for $15.00 for any ordination ceremony.

Great Benefactors will pay nothing for any service of…

A Voice

With palms together




Good Morning Everyone,







Who listens to a voice of protest when business is on the line?







Apparently nineteen countries won't. They will not attend the United Nations Nobel Awards ceremony awarding imprisoned dissident Liu Xiaobo the Nobel Peace Prize “for various reasons.” Some of these refusniks, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, are supported and bolstered by the United States. Some are countries we are in bed with such as Saudi Arabia. China insists the award is political and that a “few clowns” are attempting to interfere with its judicial affairs.







Liu Xiaobo was part of the Tiananmen Square protest and was an author of a paper asking for multiparty democracy and increased human rights in China. For this, he was found guilty of inciting subversion and sentenced to 11 years in prison.







Everyone and every country has the right to show its true colors. The US is hardly exempt here. Our ethical and moral reputation has been shot to hell by our recent wars and how we…

The Cold

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



The air this morning was cold and, as I walked Suki, I felt my body grow tense. Partial paralysis is a funny thing. In the winter, muscles contract and tense to the point they simply will not release. My partial paralysis of my left arm and leg makes it nearly impossible to walk. Everything becomes tight; everything clenches. I feel myself tighten against the cold. It is an emotionally and psychologically challenging experience.



I practice my own version of kinhin. I deliberately breathe out, telling my leg to open, telling my arm to relax, and telling my chest to breathe. I take a step, the tension returns. Another breath. And another. Sooner or later I get to where I am going.



This morning was no different. I relaxed the grip cold air had on my limbs and took one step, then another. Suki helped by doing her dance and pulling on my arm. Her friskiness in the cold air, and her obvious joy in it, made my struggle worthwhile.



Sometimes it tak…

Post Rohatsu Notes

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Good Morning Everyone,



Rohatsu sesshin concluded with a wonderful luncheon dinner at the Village Inn. If anyone has pictures of the ceremonies or of the group afterwards, please email one or two of them to me. Sesshin was attended by fourteen of us: four from the American River Sangha in Sacramento, CA., two from Both Sides/No Sides Sangha in El Paso, one from Deming, NM, and the rest from Las Cruces, NM.



Ceremonies included three Kie Sanbo Tokudo and one Jukai Tokudo: congratulations to Susan “Hakushi” Beckett (student of Priest Kajo), Heather “Kishin” Ogston (student of Priest Komyo), Kathi “Ryugin” Sorenson, and John “Shoji” Sorenson (students of Priest Daiho).



A highlight of the sesshin was a somewhat unorthodox activity. We each wrote out a commentary on our Dharma name. If we were not yet in possession of such a name, participants were asked to consider what they might think their name would be. It seemed this exercise was deeply touching and emotionally mov…

Today

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Good Morning Everyone,



Preparations are in full swing for sesshin. The California Sangha arrived safely yesterday and are now busy getting things ready. The Tenzo, who is the abbot of the Texas Sangha, will arrive in a couple of hours. It is very exciting to see so much activity at the Temple!



Today at CMZT we did Zen at Veteran’s Park at 9:00 AM followed by the samu of completing the altar platform. Afterwards, we will check the oryoki bowls sets and then prepare for our weekly Zen discussion group at 4:00 PM. Rohatsu sesshin begins at 7:00 PM. We will be sitting through the weekend until noon on Sunday. Sunday Zen service is at 9:00 AM.



I will not write to you over the weekend. May you be a blessing in the universe.



Be well.

Zazen Tonight!

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



Thursday morning and Rohatsu sesshin is nearly upon us. Still there are many small things to take care of. We will have a full house and it is exciting to see that happen. People are coming in from California and Texas, as well as other New Mexico cities such as Deming. I am turning sesshin over to my able assistant, Rev. KoMyo. He has a small staff to assist him. Rev. Bobby Kankin Byrd will be the Tenzo (Head Cook). Rev. Celia Kajo Villa will be the Ino (Zendo supervisor). Rev. Bonnie Bussho Hobbs will be the Head Priest’s Jiisha (Assistant). I get to be just the old teacher in the corner.



There is something very comforting in knowing that the Order has people who are trained in the various roles of temple life and who can step into these roles and do them well.



Zen is not just sitting. It is everything. How we walk. How we talk. How we treat the trash (knowing there is no trash is a first step there!). So, the various roles are important…

What's Important?

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



This morning I am to speak in front of a college class on the topic of Buddhism. This is always a pleasure, but a curiously challenging one. How does one communicate what Buddhism is? Typically I begin with the story of his enlightenment and this might be apropos as we are close to Rohatsu. Then I address the different flavors of Buddhism, finally arriving at the core practices. I am careful to say that Buddhism is really not an “-ism” as it has no theology, philosophy, or dogma, although some argue this point. Any “-ism” that arises, arises from an individual’s own understanding from practice and study and not a doctrinal overly. This whole exposure has a 50-minute frame.



So, I do the best I can and try to be as personable as possible.



This last point seems to me to be the most important, yet often overlooked. Teachers need to know that it is not their words that are so much important as their posture. Are we open? Are we joyful? Are we ce…

Beauty

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



The days are getting short again. Fall is clearly here and the leaves are already on the ground. This morning, early, I looked out at the eastern sky and saw the stars, the moon, and the town’s night lights. I wondered how often it is that I don’t see the moon, or the stars, or the night lights, as I am so thoroughly consumed with what the Little Prince called “matters of consequence.”



What could possibly be more consequential than thoroughly being in the moment I am in with beauty all around me? I am reminded of an encounter with a Navajo man when I was a therapist working on the reservation. He had lived off the reservation for some time and was feeling lost. He could see no beauty.



Now, if you know anything about the People, you should know that “to walk in beauty” is the highest good and it is derived from being one with the land and the natural world. We took a short walk outside of my office. I asked him to stop. I asked him to look d…

Nothing Special

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Good Afternoon Everyone,





Zen is easily understood, but had to attain. The easy is that it is direct. Want to know? Experience directly. There is absolutely nothing mystical about it. So, if it is so easy, then why do we need all the words, why do we talk a seeming double-talk? The truth is, we don’t and too often the words get between us and our attainment of the moment. Thinking about something is not the thing. Painting a picture is not the thing. Graphs, charts, and pointers are not the thing. Each of these are creations of our mind to make a picture of that which cannot be spoken, drawn, or otherwise communicated.



Easy, but hard.



The easy part is just experiencing ourselves. The hard part is letting go of the idea that there should be something more. We want more. We want fancy. We want mystical. Such things make us feel special. But we are not special and Zen is nothing special.



Drop away from special. Live your life as it is.



Easy, but hard. So it goes.

Gratitude

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



May our day be one filled with serene reflection. Thanksgiving is such a wonderful holiday. It seems to me another word for thanksgiving is gratitude. Gratitude requires three things of us. Gratitude, as a quality of selflessness, requires us to look outside of ourselves for those things that nurture and support us. Yet, at the same time, it asks us to look inside for the many points in our heart we are touched. Lastly, gratitude needs to be expressed in some way.



What do we do with our gratitude? How do we express it? I hope having gratitude means a bit more than our traditional meals, a day off, and sales at local stores. For me, I am grateful for the opportunity to look at my life and the many people who have steadfastly supported and nurtured me over this last very challenging year. I also am grateful for those who did not. Sometimes the sting of failing friendships puts things in perspective. Perspective is a quality of wisdom.



Today: …

Free

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



“Buddhism is a religion of action, not of words that so often mean nothing…peaceful sit-in demonstrations are examples of great action in silence. …Nothing will ever be achieved unless action is taken.” Rev. Dr. Soyu Matsuoka-roshi, The Kyosaku, p. 319



Matsuoka is referring to the protests against segregation in America during the sixties. His point, though, is simple and straight forward: we are not simply meditators. Followers of the Buddha Way have an obligation to act in the face of evil. Buddhism, he says, is a religion of action, and so it is. Any word would be a waste of breath. Silence is thunder, he used to say. But silence in a certain way. Silence with an attitude.



What is the attitude? The attitude of Zen: still, courageous, and upright.



These days far too many of us are complacent. We have truly become sheep or worse. We are either sleepwalking through life or busily burying our heads in the sand while all around us bad things a…

A Simple Person

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



“Zen asks you to be a simple person.” Matsuoka-roshi says. “It asks you to disregard notions about yourself, about others and about life which you may have acquired before you began seeking the truth of Zen.” (p.398, The Kyosaku)



For Matsuoka, a simple person is one who has let go of what he was, what he knows, and what he needs. He is a person who is just present, open, empty, and receptive to the teachings, which arise from him, from his teacher, and from the Buddha.



This is a ‘don’t know’ mind. The mind of one who sees clearly, but does not cling to what he sees. Very difficult this is for most of us. We want to hold onto our understanding. We want to discuss and debate and analyze. As we say in the south, we want to show ourselves. We might ask ourselves why.



The truth of Zen is in living Zen. It is in our humanity expressed through our daily lives. To behave in loud and aggressive ways reflects a mind that is needy. To behave in ways …

Thanksgiving

With palms together,


Good Evening Everyone,





The Clear Mind Zen Temple will offer a simple Thanksgiving dinner between 5:00 PM and 6:30 PM followed by a Thanksgiving Zen service at 7::00 PM. Our meal will be vegetarian. If you wish to bring a dish to share, it would be very welcome. Please email me your reservation.





Yours in the dharma,

Evolution

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



Buddha sat under a tree and faced his fears. His adversary threw a world of hurt at him, but he did not budge. What did Buddha know that enabled him to live in such a way, in the open without doors, locks, security guards, or armies? His world included murderers, thieves, and sadists, didn’t it? Yet he chose not to lock himself away. Why?



When we live in fear, we are at fear’s mercy. When we live in suspicion, we live alone. This is not human. Human beings are, by definition, social beings. We depend on each other, nurture each other, and inspire each other: we should not define ourselves as individuals so much as community.



So, fear is a powerful enemy if we experience it, a powerful tool if we wield it. We have been groomed to respond to fear with artifices of protection: armies, police, and militia. Doors, double dead bolts, security systems, weapons, all provide us with a way of coping with fear. Remember though, coping is not dealing. T…

Life

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



The morning light emerges from the dark and I find myself sitting quietly with it. I notice subtle changes expressed through body, speech, and mind. Sitting quietly, being witness, itself changes something in us. The act of just sitting is a deeply profound and life altering experience. It is the heart of the Buddha’s awakening. It is the complete teaching.



What is the teaching? “Things as it is,” says Shunryu Suzuki. What is this? Everyday life manifesting everyday life or, as Uchiyama suggests, self manifesting Self. We practice to live within it.



Just now, for me, this moment contains light. It contains the aftertaste of coffee in my mouth and the still chilled feeling of my bare feet that have not warmed since taking Suki out for her morning ‘business.’ To live within it requires us to notice the life we are, in fact, living. How is it for us? Is this breath enough? Do we cry for more? Want less? Worry about losing it? Gaining it?



For me…

Matsuoka Day

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



What to keep, what to let go of? What to revere, what to dismiss? When traveling to another country to offer the dharma, what would you bring? What would you leave behind? I recall a film or TV show from my childhood where the last scene involved such a question, if it was the end of the world and you were escaping to establish humanity on another planet, what single book would you bring?



Rev. Dr. Zengaku Soyu Matsuoka-roshi was one of the first Japanese Zen Masters who were dispatched by Soto Shu headquarters in Japan to face this choice as he entered the United States. In 1949, Matsuoka-roshi established the Chicago Zen Buddhist Temple, the first Soto Zen Temple to be established in the United States.



Zengaku Matsuoka-roshi was a powerhouse Zen Master, a black belt, he often travelled across America introducing Zen Buddhism wherever he could. He established Zen Centers across the US. Although all of this is true, his pioneer work was ecli…

Stress

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



Stress is a powerful experience of thoughts colliding. We concern ourselves with what might happen, imagining all sorts of things, and come, sometimes, to a place of utter paralysis. Under such conditions we are rather like the proverbial deer in the headlights: stopped dead in our tracks, staring right at the danger, and completely unable to move. At such times, it is important to open our so-called third eye.



Our third eye is the eye of wisdom. It is the eye that sees the entire universe. It is the eye that places all things in the larger context. When seeing with this eye we can ask ourselves critical questions because the pressure is off. Third eye is the eye of Big Mind, expansive and infinite; it can help us see what is really important and what is not.



Maybe it’s not so much the third eye that allows this view, but perhaps instead, it is the backward step we take in order to open it. Taking the backward step is the Zen way of stoppin…

A Day

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



Tuesday night we had our first Zen 101 group meeting. I was not happy with myself. I spoke far too much. We love to talk about Zen, don’t we? Good grief. The good news is that after all the talking we sat for two periods.



Wednesday morning the Zendo is empty. I sat in the quiet and joined its emptiness. There is only this space, you know, and my breath kept me close to home. With it, I centered myself in the here and now.



Just as yesterday is but a memory and tomorrow a dream, this moment is a fiction as well. Anything I might say about it is not it. Yet words come from deep inside. It can be lonely inside our heads. Words invite thinking and thoughts become company.



We try to escape our present-moment-self with words and ideas. Rather like making things up as we go, our universe unfolds in our mind’s eye. Yet, our way is not to escape, but rather, to live each moment as it comes and as it presents itself as it is. So, we notice our thought…

Jailer

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



This morning I woke vowing not only to free beings from suffering, but also to write a morning message to you. This business of vowing to free all beings even though they are numberless has been a thread of conversation between me and disciple Dai Shugyo of late. What does this vow mean? How can this be done?



I say, “Show me a piece of paper with only one side!” Nothing comes out of his mouth. A good start.



When we focus our attention on the words, we are going in the wrong direction. Yet words and their meaning are our way of communicating. Yes, I agree. They are one way, but not the only way and often the words are less a communication of something than an invitation to something. In this case, an invitation to move our mind.



Where is your mind? If it is on freeing, it is in jail. If it is on doing, it is in jail. If it is on numberless beings, it is also in jail. If I ask you to show me a piece of paper with only one side and you place y…

Function?

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,





Interesting. Yesterday afternoon’s Zen Discussion group seemed to be caught on the question, “what is our function?” Most leaned toward survival and safety as first priorities and that is an understandable point of view. Many warriors, including Buddhist warriors, and myself, have made this claim. Yet, today I am not so sure. It depends on how we understand survival and safety.



More often than not, when we talk about personal survival and safety, we create an imaginary scenario wherein someone might attack us and threaten our lives and well-being. We often simplify the picture by using early man scenarios. Oddly enough, these scenarios almost always use hunter models where weapons are involved and present in the scenario, rather than an agrarian model where the gathering and growing food demands cooperation for survival. Cooperation becomes the definition of protection itself and survival depends on mutual aid.



Someone always raises the, “if…

A few questions

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



Zen Master Seung Sahn asks, “What is our function?”



Let’s look around. A table I am writing on is made from the wood of a tree killed in the forest. The food in my refrigerator was grown and killed for me to purchase. The clothes I am wearing, the fibers, the dye, the weave, all done on a massive scale, shipped to my store in boats, trucks, and trains. The air I am breathing is filtered. The water I drink is processed and then filtered. The coffee comes from large plantations grown on what was rain forest. Yes, when I look around, it would seem my function is to use and not just use, but also to use in excess and at any cost. Who am I that this is should be the case? Am I alone in this abuse? No. At last count (a few seconds ago, according to the World Population Clock) there were 6,855,134,658 persons on this planet. Who are we that this should be the case?



Is using the planet and its resources truly our function or are we simply out of con…

Compass

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,





Sitting down to write about Zen is a strange this to do. There is nothing to be said. Every word is a lie as it is the true nature of words to deceive us. They are always mere representations. Not the thing themselves. When we are asleep we fail to see this. When awake, we say nothing: Awake is the realm of doing.



Our Temple will be taking up the study of the text, “The Compass of Zen” in our weekly discussion group this Friday at 4:00 PM. The text is a book developed over the years by Zen Master Seung Sahn. I have enjoyed this text myself over the years. It is a clear, direct dharma gate in itself.



Who are we? What are we here for? What are we to do? These are his questions and he takes us through the many layers of Buddha’s way to get to center. He assists us in our effort to see what our next step actually is, not what we think it ought to be.



Please consider joining us as we enter the Compass.



Be well.

Considerations

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



In the beginning, God spoke, and everything came into being. Or so they say.



In such a view, God stands outside of time, but since time and being are one, this could not be. So being happened and with it, God came into existence. Consider this.



We ask, well what caused being to happen? We answer nothing. Before being happened, nothing existed, including time. Cause, therefore, also could not have existed. Consider this.



We say, well there was the original material of the universe. We answer, can anything “be” without a perception? In the instant the universe appeared, cosmic consciousness appeared and with it, matter appeared. Consider this.



In the relative view, we are but a part of an infinite network of connections which gives rise to the view of no parts, just one. When we reside in no parts, wholeness, parts, and everything else drops away. What is left?



Just this.

Life

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



“The dharma is incomparably profound and minutely subtle…” I have been chanting this nearly daily for some time now. I have come to realize life is like that, the dharma. Actually, life is the dharma: Life unpolished, life without our fine gloss. Just life as it is: nothing special. This is the profound aspect of the dharma. And its subtlety is the very thing it uses to hide itself. A delicate membrane of ignorance covers our eyes of its truth. A persistent membrane, one that keeps rebuilding itself, over and over and over again until our practice reveals that both the gross and the fine are one and there is no membrane, no ignorance, and no wisdom. Indeed, there is no dharma.



We like being contained in this membrane. It helps us feel safe. We feel in control. We feel we know what’s what. It’s a warm and moist place. Who really would want to leave it? Like living in a holographic world where we are exactly what we think we want to be and ever…

Ceremony

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



Ceremony is an interesting thing. We Americans appear to both love and hate it. We are suspect of rules, forms, and expectations, yet on the other hand, we seem to take particular pleasure in witnessing others in ceremony. Opening ceremonies, closing ceremonies: we love to play dress-up if only to watch others go through the motions. When asked to participate, however, we seem hesitant, awkward, or sometimes just plain hostile.



Those who come to Zen are often quite surprised by our ceremonial forms and rituals. I don’t know, but it seems people think we are a rag-tag, iconoclastic bunch of misfits and so, when they come into a Temple and are asked to remove their shoes, place their hands in special positions, and even bow, well, my goodness, they often just don’t know what to say. “Do we really need ceremony?” We suddenly ask. “I don’t feel comfortable,” another might argue.



Why do we have so many forms? Why ceremonies at all? The short answ…

Patience

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



Life has its ways of demanding that we pay attention.



After three refrigerators and several repairs of refrigerators, it seems the refrigerators were not the problem, but the receptacle in which they were plugged was faulty. My chess rating was three hundred points higher than it is now and I just got beat twice by someone who was likely ten years old and who behaved like it. When bills are not paid, someone will try to collect on them. In each case, someone was not paying attention and in the end some sort of bell was invited to ring.



What is interesting to me is the sound of that bell.



Is it a soft and gentle bell, a loud bell, a sharp and jarring bell? What are my responses to these bells?



Last night I offered a dharma talk on the kshanti paramita, that is, the perfection of patience. When we practice patience, we must open ourselves and allow the bell, of whatever type, to ring. We must allow the bell to teach us.



When beaten by a brat…

A Mess

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



Recently at Clear Mind Zen Temple, we have been discussing elements of the Diamond Sutra. I have been using Dwight Goddard’s selection from his, “A Buddhist’s Bible,” as I like how he re-ordered the text so that the paramitas come together.



This sutra is a powerful teaching tool. But it is very subtle and so much is missed by a superficial reading. Moreover, the sutra teaches how we are to manifest ourselves as the dharma, rather than talk about it (not that talking about the dharma is a bad thing, but rather, talking is just talking, and as Buddha himself points out in the sutra, words are just words: they ought not be confused with the actualization of what the words point to). The sutra is all about us showing what is naturally there in our behavior.



I really needed to refresh myself with this sutra yesterday. It seems a number of things came together all at once. Our altar’s “stage” was installed, the refrigerator and stove were replace…

Today

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



This morning was a chilly 46 degrees. I woke very early as a result of my good ‘ole left leg jumping up and down in my sleep. So, at 2:00 AM I finished laundry, put dishes away, and stitched a tear in a robe. I dropped back to sleep at about 4:00 and woke again at 5:00. Zazen was quiet. There was no one in the Zendo but myself. Last night, as well. I enjoy this quiet time very much, perhaps too much. Zazen is neither enjoyable nor not enjoyable. It is just zazen. Practice is just practice. It is nothing but being present, adding nothing, talking nothing away.



Later in the morning, after voting and after making and eating breakfast, I spent some time at the orthotics place and had my new brace fitted. I found a pair of Asics gels for $40.00 and as very pleased that the brace and shoes are now fitted together. Perhaps now I will be able to run without too much ado. My prosthetic guy, Robert, is great. We spent a lot of time working on the fit …

The Non-duality Rag

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



The Non-duality Rag

So, this morning a cold wind

slipped across my skin

from the open window.

I snuggled with Suki.

She, too, seemed to feel it

and sought the warmth

of my body.

We care.

That is a good thing.



Last night

I watched a documentary

by the Dalai Lama

on the Four Noble Truths.

In his introductory comments,

as he so often does,

he said every world religion

has the potential to create nice human beings.

He defined this “nice”

as being caring and compassionate.



Yes, our practice

is to manifest care and compassion.

We are nice.

Such a way of being

requires others.

Without others,

no compassion is possible.

Without others,

no caring is possible.

Others are essential.



This is why we can say

there is no caring

and there is no compassion.

There is just

caring and compassion.

I cannot care for you; I care.

I cannot be compassionate for you; I am compassion.



Then it gets really weird:

where is this “I” that ca…

Seeing

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



Right now I am sitting quietly in the dark in my residence.1. I am looking out over the mesa to the mountains in the east. It is dark and the ambient light is not enough to clarify anything. But there it is, in the dark, right in front of my eyes.



Our universe is itself beauty, each and every aspect is a manifestation of its entirety: whole, alive, an quite conditional. As scientist-philosopher Brian Greene suggested, it is an Elegant Universe. Do we take any time at all to notice it? We look, but do we see?



Sitting zazen in the park, I often look out at the trees, the iron fence, and the iron bench. In front of me, beyond the park boundary, there are newly constructed southwestern style apartments. A playground sits behind me. Blue sky is above me and grass beneath me. Do I really see these? How? What are they?



As I squint my eyes as artists sometimes do, I see less detail, but in its place patterns emerge. There is positive space and nega…

Questions

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



People in the Buddhist world seem to argue about a few simple things: is Buddhism a religion, who is the “I” speaking (or writing), and, is there a “self?”



I will offer my own point of view here. First, Buddhism is a religion if its adherents practice it religiously. Religion does not require a God, and the fact that so many (including renowned dictionaries) believe it does leads to such ridiculous arguments as who or what is God. Religion needing God is a theist point of view. What if God is the Whole Enchilada? What if God is not? Does it matter? Will these questions get us any closer to our freedom?



The questions about self and an “I” are, it seems to me, based on a total misunderstanding and a case of simple amnesia. First, remember, there are two truths in Buddhism, the Absolute Truth and the Relative Truth. These are Big Mind, or Buddha Mind, and Small Mind, that is, the mind of our everyday interactions with each other and the space a…

Announcements

With palms together




Good Morning Everyone,







Announcements:



Clear Mind Zen Temple is establishing new practice times. We will practice Zazen in the Zendo at 7:00 AM on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Zen in the Park at 9:00 AM on Monday and Friday. The evening schedule is 7:00 PM Monday through Thursday. The Temple is closed on Saturday. Sunday Zazen is at 9:00 AM. Zen Discussion Group is Friday at 4:00 PM. Tai Chi Chih is offered in the Zendo on Wednesday at 4:00 PM.







The Temple is open at all other times by appointment and Roshi is available for private instruction.







Lastly, we will be practicing sesshin in honor of the Buddha's Enlightenment the first weekend of December. Our space is limited. Please email me your reservation. Thank you.







Be well.

Expectations

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



With life as it is, comes life as it is. When we expect it to be different than it is, we suffer. Yet, this isn’t quite true, is it? Suffering is a result of expectations held close, not expectations themselves. We go through life with expectations based on assumptions about the world. We must have such assumptions in order to get out of bed in the morning. It would be a challenge to get out of bed if I did not assume it is safe to do so, or that the world would not treat me fairly, or that if there was not going to be a certain amount of predictability in it. The world as we know it would come to a halt. It isn’t these that are the cause of suffering, but our investment in them.



When we encounter an unexpected change in our day, what does it feel like? How do we respond to it? Does it cause us a certain amount of anxiety? How much anxiety? Do we get angry or annoyed?



Holding on to an idea about how things should be creates suffering not th…

Care

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



Last night I was so tired from an exhausting day that I could only manage the service chants and one period of zazen. We had one student at the Temple and I asked for her permission to cut the second period and set aside the Teisho period. She graciously agreed and we closed.



In the moment, I felt badly for depriving a student of a second period and withholding a teaching in order to take care of myself. It was a passing thought. We must take care of ourselves in order to take care of others.



This is a challenge for many and it seems that challenge is related to a need to be needed. When we cannot stop caring for another in order to care for ourselves we are in need of being needed and ironically, are not really caring at all. True care requires us not to need to care. Being in service to others is not about us, its’ about others. If I am caring for others, not for them but out of my need to care, then what is the true object of my care?



Be…

Prajna

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



Prajna is translated as “wisdom.” Hui-Neng teaches that it is the same as Samadhi and that this Samadhi is one practice. Prajna is the same as zazen. It is the same as kinhin, samu, and oryoki. Prajna and enlightenment are one. Yet, enlightenment is not true enlightenment if it is a singular manifestation. In the Mahayana tradition we must turn our attention to others. Master Dogen in the Shushogi teaches that there are four wisdoms for the benefit of others. These are charity, kind speech, benevolent deeds, and cooperation. He says, “These are the practices of the vow of the bodhisattva.”



Recently I have been challenged by the fact that there have been so many changes coming from so many directions and encounters with people who have abused my friendship that when I took a look at this teaching again, I was dumbstruck. I did not feel particularly charitable, my words were decidedly not kind (at least those flying around in my head) and I d…

Four Vows

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



Last night at the Temple we talked about the part in the Shoshogi that addresses the vow to free all beings. The Four Great Vows are very special as they present us with the most fundamental koans.



Beings are numberless; I vow to free them.

Delusions are inexhaustible; I vow to end them.

Dharma gates are boundless; I vow to enter them.

The buddha way is unsurpassable; I vow to realize it.



We vow to free “numberless” beings, yet seemingly have only one lifetime. We vow to end delusions, yet they are “inexhaustible.” We vow to enter “boundless” dharma gates and in the end, realize an “unsurpassable” buddha way. Here’s the thing: If we approach these logically we will never get them. They are not logical in the logical of linearity.



We must step back and let our mind go. Like releasing one’s eyes when looking at a picture in order to see patterns we cannot see with focused eyes.



The vow is, as Daido Loori pointed out, a prayerful one. Su…

Suki Moments

With palms together


Good Evening Everyone,



My dog, Suki, has buddha nature. I know this because watching her intently; I see generosity, patience, diligence, morality, mindfulness, and most importantly, wisdom. She is but a pup, yet there she is, a living buddha. I am fortunate indeed to have her at my side.



Suki manifests the great paramitas, those aspects of a buddha we seek to release through our practice. I wish I were able to release such fine attributes, but alas, I am human.



My practice will be Suki watching, or more precisely, watching myself experience Suki.



This is all we can do in life: witness in the most profound and deepest sense that which gives rise to the thought of enlightenment. As we go about our daily business, we witness ourselves in our small preoccupations and, once in awhile, if we are both fortunate and observant, a Suki moment taps us on the shoulder.



May yours be in this moment.

Urgency

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



This morning we will sit zazen in the park at Frontier and Roadrunner here in Las Cruces, NM. I am looking forward to this practice, although this immediate moment is actually my practice. I am drawn to my online chess games and struggle to let them sit idle while I stare at the wall…or the grass. My rating has taken a serious hit lately. I feel a strong urge to play and play and play some more! Dealing with such matters is what Zen is all about.



We often feel compelled. We often struggle with this urge or that. It is not the aim of the urge that is so much the matter, but the felt urgency itself. The aims come and go, but just below the surface urgency remains. For some it is a personality issue, for others it can be a sign of addiction, and still others (most, I think) it is a culturally induced response to fight or flight. There is a reason we say, “We are like sitting ducks!” Birds on a wire get shot! Urgency, hypervigilance, the need to…

Contact of a Zen Kind

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



Zen living requires a radical reorientation to life. When such a turn happens what was once important no longer seems so; what was once unimportant is now significant. It is this seeming turning of life upside down that disturbs some of us, as well as so many of those around us. Conversely, it is what makes life so wonderful for those who open their eyes. Yet, it is only a seeming turning of things. In truth, it is just a shift in where we place our mind.



Two short, non-exclusive lists:

What is significant?

A glass of water.

A sliver of the moon in the sky.

Loving someone; being loved by someone.

The taste of things.

The feel of things.

The smell of things.

The sound of things.



What is insignificant?

Our thoughts about the above.

Hurrying to get somewhere.

Getting somewhere.

Our social status; another’s social status.

The sort of car we drive.

How wide our TV screen is.

That we have a TV in the first place.



We might consider making…

Pure Precpts

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



The first two of the Three Pure Precepts were the topic of Rev. Bobby Kankin’s Teisho last night at Both Sides/No Sides Zen Sangha in El Paso. He did a marvelous job framing those two very significant vows. While he was presenting them, he spoke of a question he had received which asked what was the difference between them. The first vow is in the negative, “I vow to cease doing evil.” The second vow is in the positive, “I vow to do good.”



Rev. Kankin asked me at the conclusion of his talk to comment.



With some consideration, I offered that the first pure precept is really a precept toward making oneself whole. To refrain is to enter one’s self. It is a process of unification. Whereas, the second vow is a vow to manifest our true nature. Therefore, in the first case, we unify ourselves, bringing about an end to duality, and in the second case, we allow that non-duality to appear in the world. How? By getting up from our cushions and going i…

A Walk

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



An announcement:



There will be no Zazen at Clear Mind Zen Temple this evening as I will be in El Paso with Both Sides/No Sides Sangha.



This morning very early, Soku Shin and I took a walk through the Desert Trails park. The stars were wonderful. A flashlight helped keep us on the trail and Suki helps as well by making sure we were mindful. Walking in starlight is very humbling. The sky is so deep and expansive, the air so cool, and the earth so seemingly supportive that it feels as though we are truly on a voyage on a spaceship though the universe. Indeed we are.



Where are we going? Where have we been? It really doesn’t matter. Just as on a walk, it is the walk that matters. The voyage is never about getting there.



I am playing multiple games of chess just now. I am not doing well, by some standard, such as winning or losing. I am playing chess with very interesting people from around the world. In their play their temperaments are reveale…

Racing

With palms together


Good Morning Everyone,



So it is in the fifties here in southern New Mexico and I just woke at 4:00 AM. Yesterday was a very good day. Team Zen did a charity race in El Paso, a 5k non-competitive walk, so I guess it wasn’t technically a race. I noticed, though, through Rev. Kajo pointing it out, that I just couldn’t help racing along passing people, looking over my shoulder, and all that stuff one does while racing. I considered her observation and it was true.



Even when it was pointed out that I was racing, and I backed off, I soon was at it again. I put my attention on the scenery, and as beautiful as it was, my heart was in the race. These are habits of the heart that are a challenge to break.



The thing is, even if I were to pass someone, I am still a far back of the pack racer. So all of my racing is for my self-improvement just as in zazen, we often sit with the thought of improving: how long can I sit? Can I sit stronger than yesterday? Will I move today?



I…

The News

With palms together




Good Morning Everyone,







I have not yet looked at the morning news. I am curious about it. Who bombed who today? Who killed or stole or raped? They say dog bites man is not news, but man bites dog is. I wonder.







The stories that compose our diet of news are incredibly similar in that they strike out at the heart. Let me see...hostage killed in rescue attempt; gunman opening fire at an elementary school; teens and a man abducted, sodomized, tortured, and nearly killed for being gay.







Good grief. Seems to me I read these stories pretty much weekly. How can we be the way we are?







Yet, I still hold onto my breath and find some way to care about the perpetrators of these crimes. Somewhere, somehow, hate filled them.







People do not just get up in the morning and think it might be cool to shoot somebody or cut them or strangle them. They had to be taught it, dreamed about it, and felt it, for a very long time.







Just as my heart begins to hurt as I read these stories, so too m…