Zen 101

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Only the Work

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

We are told that practice makes perfect, but I can say spending the night with a cheap brush and ink stick is not necessarily a good idea. At three o’clock I was too tired to sleep. My alarm is set for 4:30. Hulu was on the Notebook, and I was sipping some very cheap Merlot.

There is something about the feel of grinding and mixing the paint that is so sensual. Practicing this grinding and mixing is allowing me to begin to feel when the paint is ready for a particular kind of brush stroke. It would seem this is important when doing painting. Also, the amount of paint on the brush seems important, especially in an effort to creatively express a free form of kanji.

I am looking at brushwork less for perfection of kanji and more for the potential of creative expression. Unlike art, perhaps like art, there is no perfection in Zen. There is just this and just that. Whatever is before me is an expression of perfection, warts and all. During my first two semesters of college back in 1968 or so, I fancied myself an art major and took a heavy dose of classes: Drawing 101, 102, Figure drawing, Intro to Painting, and Intro to Sculpture. My art professors often talked about “happy accidents,” those strokes of pen or brush that are unintentional, but there they are in the middle of our otherwise “perfect” effort. We students trained to begin to see the perfection of the accident.


It has just dawned on me how deeply I drew that practice into me. A willingness to see the truth of a happy accident is a baseline skill in our ability to be present. Like Art, in Zen there is only the work.

Be well.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Takuhatsu and Zazenkai

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

It is the end of the month and that means two things: time to practice takuhatsu (begging) and time for Zazenkai. Our Order will move into its Temple Building this month. We exist from donations. All of our services are free and open to the public. Unfortunately the products and services we consume in the process are not free. Our rent there is $560.00 which includes utilities. The Order, instead of paying me a salary, pays for the equipment and services I use on behalf of the Order. These include gasoline, cell phone and Internet service. In addition, there are tea, coffee, and small amounts of food for events such as Zen Discussion Group, Zazenkai, etc. Together, these equal about $300.00 per month, which means our budgeted financial needs are $860.00.

Dana (charity) is our very first perfection. Please consider a tax-deductible donation to our new Temple.

Also, we are in desperate need of basic supplies like zafus and an inkan bell. If you have an old zafu and consider donating it, please do so. Or, if you would rather not make a cash donation, go online to a zafu company and order one on our behalf.

Coming next week is Hiroshima/Nagasaki Memorial Day (August 5). We will offer a one-day Zazenkai on the first Saturday of August in memorial to this dreadful event. As a part of the Zazenkai, we will show a film called “Atomic Flame” which is the story of a flame kindled by the A-bomb that devastated Nagasaki and was kept burning for sixty years, finally to be returned to its source at Trinity Site here in New Mexico. Members of our Sangha participated in the ceremony.

Zazenkai will begin at 7:00 AM and close at 4:00 PM Please RSVP. Thank you.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Takkesa Ge

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Takkesa ge (Our Robe Verse, recited before we put on our robes).

“How great, the robe of liberation. a formless field of merit. Wrapping ourselves in the Buddha’s teaching, we free all living beings.”

When we unfold the robe we manifest morality. The o’kesa, as well as the smaller rakusu, is a patchwork robe made up of strips of fabric that are sewn together in a particular pattern. The robe represents the actualized dharma, transmitted from teacher to student through the millennia.

We do not take these robes lightly. The practice of sewing a robe has come to us generation by generation all the way back to Shakyamuni. It is our heart and soul. We wear our robes and exist in them. Our robes are nothing but an outward manifestation of inward vows.

Some might see the robes as a form of costume or a uniform of sorts. Others may understand them to be a curtain to hide behind. This would seriously diminish both the wearer and the robe. Every stitch is the heart and soul of a bodhisattva. Every stitch a vow to free others, knowing it is impossible to free anything.

Katagiri said “Zen is action.” We cannot just think our way through the barriers, we must actualize ourselves and we accomplish this through our forms. With proper reverence, may we each enfold ourselves in the Buddha’s teaching today.

Be well.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

“What are the teachings? ‘One, two, three, four, five!’”

“What is practice? ‘In the whole world, it can never be hidden.’”

This teaching comes from Dogen Zenji’s Tenzo Kyokun (Instructions for the Cook).

Here we have a direct lesson in living in the Way. The teachings point to lessons as plain as the nose on our face, the question is, can we see our nose?

We often say, “When washing the dishes, just wash the dishes.” When I wash the dishes it is a great lesson in mindfulness. My left hand, partially paralyzed, refuses to hold things in soapy water. So, I must consciously and deliberately find a way to hold the glass while washing it with my other, “good,” hand.

In this simple everyday task is a very deep teaching: washing the glass is none other than one, two, three, four, five. Practice awareness is “things whether slippery and wet, or dry as a bone, are none other than the universe itself: exercise great care.” The buddha way is nothing more than this.

I am grateful for my paralysis, though at times it is a clear pain in the ass. It is a dharma gate. Without it, I would be able to wash the dishes without putting attention on the dishes. I would be able to put on my kesa without struggling to tie it. I would be able to tie my shoes without feeling like Captain Hook. Things would definitely be easier, but mindlessness would be knocking at my door.

Be well.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

There are notions regarding how Zen Buddhists are supposed to act, think, and believe. These notions set us apart from reality. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the phrase, “well, that’s not very Buddhist!” As if to say, I am not conforming to some idea of Buddhism and therefore am stepping out of Buddhist practice in that instant.

Ideas such as we are to be gentle creatures, vegetarian, serene, and unattached come to mind. Its as if people have shaped heir view, uncritically, from television and movie images. It certainly isn’t from study of Zen itself or people would know better. We can’t say too much about this however, as indeed, some of us do put this image on and wear it as if it is part of the nature of our robes. This is posturing. It is inauthentic.

While we practice the Way, and allow through our behavior buddha-dharma to come into the world, this buddha-dharma is not an idealized image. It is not we sitting like the Buddha with a golden halo around us. It is, rather, the Universal arising in the Particular. Nothing more, nothing less.

When we realize the Universal, we can behave seamlessly in the Relative. The skunk in my alpaca pen was the entire universe; it was not separate from me, yet it was exactly separate from me. It has its nature, as I have mine. On one level they are the same. On another level they are not the same. I should behave toward it in accordance with both of its natures or risk being quite stinky.

Be well.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Nowhere Else

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Katagiri-roshi said, “Your basic nature is no solid form.”

Dogen Zenji quoted an ancient as having said, “Craving life, day after day goes by in distress; if one does not turn one’s head when called, what can be done?”

Nothing we do or say can change the fact that everything changes. The tree buds; the bud blossoms; the bloom fades.

Sounds trite, but our basic nature is every moment change. When we realize this in every moment, we step forward and do what is there to be done. It is in this doing what is there to be done that we manifest our buddha nature and reveal the buddha-dharma. Everything is one; everything is not-one. We experience our morning coffee as itself and the universe. Respect, compassion, and authenticity follow.

We must not crave life. We must not grasp the moment. On the other hand, we must not crave death. We must not deny the moment. Craving and grasping are, as Buddha taught, sources of suffering.

Life is to be lived. To do so we must release ourselves into it. Letting our life’s condition be what it is as we face it openly; receiving it with compassion, we let go of what was and what will be.

Here we are and nowhere else.

Be well.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

We so often stumble in the dark, when all that is required is that we turn on a light. So stubborn we human beings!

We insist on walking in the dark, even relish it, and yet wonder how it is that we land on our butts so often.

The problem is that we do not know we are walking in the dark. We don’t know because we are sleep walking. Its easy. Just know everything.

To know is to not know. Sounds paradoxical. Yet what is moonlight? If you say anything at all, it is incorrect. You are only blowing words out of your mouth. Thoughts out of your brain. No. To know moonlight is to be moonlight.

How can we be moonlight? Sit outside tonight.

Stumbling in the dark is easy; turning on the light? Well, that is a different story.

Be well.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

This morning arrived late. I am usually up and at my day by 4:30 or so. Today I opened my eyes at 5:15. Suki was sleeping in the Zendo. I made coffee, washed, and sat down to see how the world was presenting itself.

I wish I hadn’t. Saber rattling everywhere, good grief.

Yesterday afternoon, our discussion group got into a pesky little hole. This often happens. We are examining the Platform Sutra. It is a teaching, a history, a biography, and a work of great fiction. Some of us do not like to hear that. Yet, it is so of all “sacred” texts. We must drop away this notion of “sacred” completely; it is no more sacred than doggy doo, but no less sacred, either.

Twhen studing text we must not approach the work as literalists, hanging on every word as it is. We need to learn how to let go of the literal and swim in the deeper tapestry of text history, culture, context, and so on.

One piece of text gave us pause. After Hui-Neng has Dharma Transmission, the Fifth Patriarch says to him,

“…since ancient times the lives of those to whom this teaching has been transmitted have hung by a thread. If you stay here, someone will harm you. You must leave at once.”

Most of us take this literally. We say, well, all the monks will get up in arms about the newbie getting the robe and bowl, etc. It gives rise to all sorts of discussion regarding human nature, politics, human life, etc.

I suspect there is a deeper understanding here, a teaching of immense significance that if we reside on the surface, we will completely miss.

The teaching referred to here by the Fifth Patriarch is not a teaching, per se, as nothing was “taught,” but rather, the experience of direct, Mind-to-Mind transmission and the question of how to remain free and easy in the marketplace. Transmission is a “born again” sort of thing. As a newborn, every step is fraught with the danger of us losing our shoshin, beginner’s mind. This life is always hanging by a thread and people are always out to steal your life from you. That someone might even be our self.

One of the aspects of this piece that has captured my attention is the aspect of a demand to leave home. We got into that a little yesterday, but again, I fear the literal understandings can be an obstacle to deeper understanding.

Homeleaving does not simply or solely mean, get up and go. It is also a metaphor for clear mind. Setting aside what we know is as much “leaving home” as getting on an airplane. If we have left home, we are always at risk for setting up housekeeping elsewhere. It is in our nature to nest. There are powerful social and psychological forces at play to move us in that direction.

This is one aspect of the enlightened Fifth Patriarch’s message to the enlightened Sixth Patriarch: “stay awake, there are always those who will help put you to sleep!”

Be well.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Eternal Life

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Kennet-roshi re-titled her seminal book on Zen, “Zen is Eternal Life.” Early in my practice I wondered about this. I still do. How could this be so? What does it mean? In this one line she offered a sword to cut through everything.

When we practice Zen we are as free as the wind, present as the mountain, and still as an undisturbed pond. There is satisfaction. We are also alive, kicking and screaming, wiggling and itching. We have an itch, but cannot scratch. There is no satisfaction. We are both dual and non-dual at once.

Bearing witness to our suffering, our joy, and our everyday life is all there is. When we accept it as our own it becomes our teacher. Is there any beginning or end to this? No. Everything is, always will be, and is constantly changing. Our lives are no exception. When we drop away self what remains? Everything. So, Zen is Eternal Life, no exception.

May your practice be yours,

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Hello All,

I am applying for membership in the American Zen Teachers Association.  If you are a member and would be willing to allow me to reference you, please email me.

A bow to each of you.

Zen in America

With palms together,

Lately I have been considering Zen in America. I have concluded it should have little to nothing to do with Zen in Japan. It will be its own creation driven from, and derived from, practice. True Buddhism, as Master Dogen pointed out, is practice. And I see by the time, that my morning bell will ring in a few minutes. More later.
Be well.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Shukke (home leaving) is, according to Master Dogen, exactly the same as being a buddha and taking the precepts. He says, “In sum, the supreme state of bodhi is perfectly satisfied at the time of leaving home and receiving the precepts.” It is the day we “abide in the ocean of infinite kalpas,” it is beyond the three times, and in it, we turn the wheel of dharma.

So, what is this home leaving? Can it be as simple as leaving wife and family, shaving one’s head and joining a bunch of other baldies? No. These are the most gross and superficial of understandings.

Home-leaving is as much a posture as it is an act. Like Zazen, it is the Way of the Buddhas and Patriarchs. Our attitude is key. Right understanding opens the door.

To be sure we need to actually leave family life in order to be monks, but this means dropping away body and mind, our attachments; our investments more than anything else. To one living deeply in impermanence, what is anything, but flow?

Recently, I went through this. Am still doing so, actually. I have left home, I am dropping away body and mind, I am letting go of my “memory me.” It is a period of mourning for sure, as it is a period of change, loss, and yet, great joy also.

In the process, as with any loss process, we go back and forth, up and down. Readers may have seen this in my writing. Do not be concerned. This duck will continue to float. We must trust the process.

Residing in ocean, we learn the meaning of water.

Be well.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Last night I sat in the darkened Zendo for some time. The Refuge has a bid on it and I spent a good deal of time mourning it’s loss. The house provided shelter in deep snow, coolness in summer heat, and solitude when most needed. It is time to move on.

Zen is about staying awake in the present. My Teacher thinks I have been a bit cloudy of late. He says he is worried about me. Master-to-Master, we sit loving each other. A bow to him.

I am not worried and I see clearly. It’s the dealing with what is seen that is at issue. So, I take a little piece of cloud and chew it up. Now another. And another.

When the field is open

And the sky is infinite,

Sun and moon

Mind them selves.

The bell, about to ring,

Makes no sound.

The sun is about to rise:

I sip my coffee.


Be well.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Beginner's Step: Team Zen

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Last night I decided to take up running again. In spite of My Left Foot being what it is, I can actually jog/shuffle better than walking. So, I slipped on the brace and leashed-up Suki, and out the door we went. I decided to jog the entire short run, but ended up taking two 30 second walk breaks. It was a 12 minute jog. I followed this with an “arms and shoulders” weight routine using light dumbbells. A beginner step. Let me stay there, please.

This morning we will practice Zazen at 7:00 in the Zendo; Zazen at Peace Camp (held this week at Peace Lutheran Church) at 8:30 AM; and Zazen in the Sagecrest Park at 9:15 AM. I then must deliver the last wagessa to the embroidery shop. At 2:00 I have my own meeting with my Teacher, Hogaku Shozen-roshi. Zazen at 7:00 PM.

Be well.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Open Field

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

For km

In an open field,

There is no place Or desire To hide.

In an open field,

Sun and moon, Rain and snow, Mud and dust,

Each are One.

Reside in open heart,

There, no harm can come


There will be no zazen in the condo today as I am traveling to the Refuge early for a day trip. II will resume my regular schedule Monday morning adding Peace Camp at Peace Lutheran Church in between morning sitting periods.

Be well.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Press Release

For Immediate Release:

New Zen Center to Open!

The Order of Clear Mind Zen announces it is scheduled to open its new headquarters and Clear Mind Zen Center at 642 Alameda Boulevard, Suite E in Las Cruces, NM. Clear Mind Zen Center will offer a complete array of Zen Buddhist and contemplative services, including daily Zen meditation at 7:00 AM and 7:00 PM as well as a full Zen Buddhist service at 9:00 AM on Sunday mornings. The Center will also offer monthly zazenkai and quarterly sesshin retreats. .

The Abbot of the Order, Rev. Harvey Daiho Hilbert, says that the Center plans to offer Zen Instruction, classes on Zen Buddhism, Mindfulness Training, and Stress Management through meditation. Included in this array of services are discussion groups, T'ai Chi Chih and Yoga classes.

Rev. Daiho is an ordained Zen Buddhist monk who was given Dharma Transmission and authorization to teach through his Master, Rev. Hogaku Shozen McGuire. He was awarded the degree of "Roshi" in 2005. Over the last several years, Daiho offered what he called "streetZen" or "Zen in the Park." He is a disabled combat veteran of the Vietnam War and a former psychotherapist who holds both a Masters and PhD in Social Work. He nows lives and practices as a full time Zen Buddhist Monk.

The Center will open its doors on August 16 with plans for an Open House under development. For additional information call Rev. Daiho at 575-680-6680. The Order of Clear Mind Zen is a New Mexico non-profit religious corporation and is on the web at: http://clearmindzen.org

Contact: Rev. Harvey Daiho Hilbert-Roshi

Telephone: 575-680-6680


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Our discussion group wrestled with the Faith Mind poem yesterday afternoon. The poem is quite a piece of work. I believe it should be read like a Teisho, an expression of the speaker’s Buddha Nature. It is a challenge to apply to everyday life unless one is willing to let go of thoughts about it.

Is it possible to be without preferences, distinctions, or ideas? Is it a worthy aim to reside that way?

As long as I am breathing, I will make a choice to breathe. I will breathe in order to live and will find meaning in that choice. What I must practice to do is practice. In the practice is the falling away of “self” and with this falling away, preferences and distinctions, reason and ideas. No preferences means residing in openness and receptivity.

The part that fascinates me is where the author says, in effect, that to reside in Big Mind is to realize its non-existence. Non-duality denies itself because when there is no duality, there is no oneness. Oneness requires something apart from it to make it sensible.

For those theists among us, this would also be true of God. If we were to become one with the Infinite, the Infinite would cease to exist because to exist it needs the finite.

This is what it means to say all dharmas are empty.

Be well.

Friday, July 16, 2010


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Walking Suki last night and again this morning, I was delighted with the sky and the smell of the desert air after a storm. The grass was wet, the shrubs perky, and the air clean. Fresh.

Someone on the main list noted that we often post with “raw honesty.” This is a challenge in our world. In our world, appearance is nearly everything. To be honest to a fault is to reveal a fault and faults are not acceptable in our world. Blemishes will not do. Indecision, error, inconsistency: these are an anathema to leadership and yet, these very traits are often major aspects of reflective wisdom.

Of late, I have myself suffered a sort of crisis in confidence, doubting myself, my choices, and sometimes even my value to the Zen community. Conditions are always changing and, in my case, rapidly. Adaptation to these changes requires a willingness to be fluid and, in essence, free-forming. What was, no longer is; what will be is not known, and what is, changes with every breath.

So, the occasional “breaks” from posting (which rarely exceed a day or two) and the felt need to go off to the Refuge are more expressions of my insecurity on the one hand, and a need to center, on the other hand, than statements of an actual plan. With the Order finally gaining a Temple space, I will feel much less dis-eased and far more focused on our mission.

Throughout all this, I have tried to post my thoughts and feelings on the processes and relate them somehow to the experience as a Zenster. I believe this is a teaching in itself. I know I am learning from it.

May we each be a blessing in the universe today.

Today at CMZT

7:00 AM. 7:00 PM, Zazen at Condo Zendo

8:30 AM Peace Camp

9:00 AM Zen in the Park

1:00 PM Sign Lease

4:00 PM Zen Discussion Group

Thursday, July 15, 2010


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

For me, Zen is nothing more than a process of unfolding. In such a process, there is nothing really to teach except the process itself. Each of us experiences the process individually and in our own way and time. What is essential is our attitude, or our stance, toward each moment as it arises.

Being open, allowing what we think is real and true to fall away, this is Zen.

This falling away may be sudden or gradual, but with practice it will happen. Some of us resist: who wants to be empty?

Some of us dive right in: who wants to be solid?

Most of us just practice, not at all concerned about outcome: this is the way.

Be well.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

In the interest of full disclosure, it is dark outside. The candles in the Zendo are casting that warm light that they do under such conditions, almost begging for all other light sources to be excluded. The incense wafts through the room, as the open window allows a breeze. Desert air is always so refreshing in the morning.

We are excited that the Order will finally have a home of its own. I will keep you posted.


7:00 AM Zazen at Zendo

8:30 AM Peace Camp Zazen at TBE

2:00 PM Dokusan with Ron at Zendo

5:00 PM Dokusan with Shoji on Skype

7:00 PM Zazen in Zendo

Be well.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Rest Over

With palms together,

We found a delightful space for our Temple this afternoon.  A Letter of Intent is on its way.  I am very hopeful. Dharma Combat will resume this Friday at 4:00 PM. at Student Kathryn Soku Shin Masaryk's residence.

Be well.

Sitting schedule as follows:

Daily at 7:00 AM and 7:00 PM at Condo Zendo

Monday and Friday at 9:00 AM at Zen in the Park at Sagecrest Park, corner of Roadrunner and Frontier.

Sunday Services: 7:00 AM (informal), Formal at 9:00 AM.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Cutting Back

Dear Readers,

I will be seriously cutting back on my Internet use and presence.   I will post a few things from time to time, but in the main, am taking a long awaited vacation.

Be well.

Schedule Changes

Sangha and Friends:

Weekly Schedule

This week and next we have Peace Camp at 8:30 AM.The first week Temple Beth El will host it; the second week Peace Lutheran Church will host it. Dharma Teacher Reba Zen Shin Montera and I will be offering Zen Meditation instruction to the children at 8:30 AM daily.

I have decided to alter our practice schedule at Clear Mind Zen in the hope of attracting other sitters to join us.

I am changing my daily schedule so that we sit in the park a little later, Beginning Tuesday the following will be our schedule.

Zendo 7:00 AM and 7:00 PM daily,

Zen in Sagecrest Park at 9:00 AM on Monday and Friday only

and Formal Zen in Zendo at 9:00 AM on Sunday.

Zen Dharma Combat at 4:00 PM Friday

Saturday we are off.

Please undertstand, our situation is fluid and may change at any moment. I am searching for a permenant home for Clear Mind Zen. If you should know of a building availbale that has a bath and a kitchen, please let me know. Our upper limit in rent is $600.00.

Friday, July 09, 2010


With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

This morning at 7:00 AM, we will practice Zen at Sagecrest Park on the corner of Roadrunner and Frontier and this afternoon our Zen discussion group will discuss the Hsin Hsin Ming (Faith Mind poem) of the Third Patriarch. This is an incredibly deep and profound teaching offered by the Dharma grandson of Master Bodhidharma. A copy can be found at our website: www.clearmindzen.org The group meets at 4:00 PM at the Condo Zendo.

This evening at 7:00 PM we will begin our Obon Sesshin. Obon serves at least two purposes: a time to remember our deceased loved ones and a time to assist the Hungry Ghosts, those unfortunate ones who can never get enough and are thus always seeking and never receiving. During this period, we look for the Hungry Ghost in ourselves and treat him or her with great generosity and compassion. We will hold an Obon service on Sunday morning to offer cakes to the Hungry Ghosts.

Let us practice to open the hand that grips us.

Be well.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Last Post for Awhile

With palms together,

We will be going into Obon sesshin soon and after that I will travel to the mountain refuge. I will be doing a ninety day ango there alone.

May you each be a blessing in the universe.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Zen and Technology, Part Three

With Palms Together,

Good Morning everyone,

Zen and Technology, Part Three

As I go through my day I notice both very fine nuances in my brain’s activity, and the gross impositions its impairment places on my ordinary daily activities of living. I notice my body’s lack of balance, facial tics, and my halting, stumbling gait. I notice my fingers are tight, perhaps a little puffy. I notice how my mind tries to go to sleep when I open a book or sit down for zazen. Everyday life is our playground. In it we reveal ourselves to ourselves. It is these revelations that we should notice. Notice, not grasp.

Technology is neither good nor bad; it is neither the beginning nor the end. It is the sun setting, the moon rising, the birds chirping.

Change is always difficult. We experience a sweet moment and want to hold it forever. Yet, there it is, that pesky next moment intruding on our song. For all of our talk about being in the present, I notice a desire to live in the past or in some future rendition of perfection. I just notice. I open my grip on it and let it slip away.

We also fear change. Our children, those digital brains, are the next step in our evolution as a species. They will understand their creation in a wholly different way than we do. Moreover, they will not understand us without great effort. They will be less and less constrained by a physical world and be more and more interconnected in the vast network of the universe. Values and expectations will change. And much like our ancestors were challenged by the paradigmatic shift regarding our place in the universe, so too, will we.

From a Zen perspective, no problem: Be here now!

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Zen and Technology, Part Two

With Palms Together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Zen and Technology, Part Two

Written over the last couple of days:

This morning the weather report on my computer said it would be overcast and possibly stormy. I understood from one of my students, (who called last night on her cell) that it was supposed to rain on us in the morning. So, I decided not to go to the park for Zen in the Park this morning and instead sent an email to those who often sit with me informing them that I would be sitting in the Condo Zendo. After that, I checked the Order’s bank account online, made some modifications to a blog site, and then began composing this post.

July 2, Afternoon

This afternoon, I had two occasions to use Skype video conferencing. The first with Student John from California. And later, our Zen discussion group included a member via Skype. Student Dai Shugyo had come down with strep throat and needed to stay home, but he wanted to be a part of the discussion. We set up the Notebook with camera facing the group as we then pursued a rich discussion of the early part of the Platform Sutra.

July 2, Evening

Such technological innovations as cell phones, telephones, computers, and the Internet have brought us close together and in so many ways shrunk the world. On our Zen Living list, for example, we have over three hundred and fifty members, many from very distant parts of the planet including Australia, China, an, Iraq and Iran. On Face Book, I am connected with over four hundred people. My friends at Tricycle and Blogger bring me to nearly a thousand…and this does not count the smaller, more personal, email directory I post. Not only are words posted, but pictures, video, and audio files as well.

At no time in the history of our species have we been so easily able to instantly connect to, speak to, and listen to the myriad voices of the human race. As with any tool, however, changes inevitably occur as we adapt to the new technologies. We not only make our tools, but are, in turn, made by them. This is a very important point and cannot be overstated. Children, for example, who routinely use computers, grow different brains than those who don’t. We now have a term for this, “digital brains” in “digital children,” or “Digital Natives.” See this article for a fascinating introduction.

The absence of a tool in one’s life changes one’s life…and now we know, even one’s actual brain.

Human beings are a social species. We gain our humanity through social relationships. So, one of our basic human drives as beings in the world is the drive to connect and through that connection define our reality.

What is this reality?

July 3, Morning.

Suki is better. She has not coughed for two days. I am pleased and grateful to all who offered their thoughts on behalf of her well-being.

Reality is what we make it to be. Things in themselves mean nothing in themselves, but add a human being to the mix and we get meaning. Human beings assign meaning to everything, then rank order those meanings and this rank order gives rise to an axiological scheme: what we value.

Yet, this is a case where the interaction between the thing and the being changes both. A cup once offered the meaning of ceremonial teacup becomes something other than a cup and that something other alters our brain as we interact with it. Form and function inter-are…intimately.

Technologies are nothing in themselves. What is a Blue Tooth without a human being calling it a Blue Tooth? Assigning meaning to it (a useful, hands-free tool or a sign that the Borg are already with us), is what we humans do. Our Zen is to notice.

Next: Notice what?

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Zen and Technology

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Technology and Zen: Part One

Technology. Good grief. What is it in this modern world that drives us to be so connected? My cell phone would not operate in the Condo. Every call required a walkabout outside. (Note: I seem to get a lot of calls.) This situation drove me to Skype, a wonderful computer program that enables telephone and video calls. I considered giving up the cell phone and installing a satellite card in the Notebook, but they tell me the bandwidth requirements were excessive and my monthly fees would be high. I needed access to various email accounts, Skype, telephone, Face Book, Blogger.com, and Tricycle.com. Most of my work as a monk is through the Internet and through the use of these various technologies. So.

I broke down and ordered a new phone and phone service. Then I spent the next several days trying to actually get the new phone shipped. This was followed by another several hours yesterday trying to get the thing to work. And now, finally I have it able to receive and send calls (imagine that!), but I still cannot get the email function to work properly (as it seems dedicated to Google mail) …I was able to sync in my Yahoo account info, but so far cannot get additional mail, except through a browser window. I managed to connect Face Book and the Blue Tooth thingy, as well: A Zen cyborg, I.

New Mexico now has a Cyborg law. We have to have an implant in our ear in order to use the phone while driving. I understand this and even support the hands free part, but goodness, there has to be another way! Everywhere I turn, earpieces, and now me!

Which brings me back to my question, what is the drive to be so connected: technology in service to connectivity for the sake of what?

See Part Two