Showing posts from September, 2011

The Sky

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Joshu asked, “What is the path?” Nansen said, “Everyday life is the path.” Later Nansen added, “If you want to reach the true path beyond doubt, place yourself within the same freedom as that of the sky…”

There are two aspects that arise from disciplined practice. First, our disciplined practice is in every moment. Second, as a result, our disciplined practice is not contained by the dimensions of a zabuton. As Janis Joplin sang, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” In Zen we actually mean this.

When every moment is practice it means in every moment we are attuned to our heart/mind. There is just this in front of us and there is no separation between it and us. Why? Because we realize there is no “it” and no “us.” When ownership, attachment, and emotional investment fall away there is nothing left to lose, but nothing has been lost either. In fact, we have actually gained the universe itself.

We speak of a “path” as if…

September 27

With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,

Tuesday comes. Rev. KoMyo arrived yesterday and we enjoyed several hours together before it was time to retire. Student Jeffery arrives late this evening (at 10:00 PM). Rev. Shoji, Student Ryugin, and Rev. Elliston arrive Wednesday.

Today we will proceed as usual with Zazen, Dokusan and Zen 101. Our class this evening will wrap up our study of The Eight Gates of Zen by Daido Loori-roshi. We will practice Zazen at 9:30 AM and again at 6:00 PM with Zen 101 at 7:00 PM. Rev. Soku Shin and I will be having a Peace Camp planning lunch at noon today with the new Director of Peace Village.

I would like to thank in advance Students Shelley Tenborin and Bonnie Hensan, Ino Joe DaiShugyo, Doan Kathryn Soku Shin and Tenzo Tamra for their assistance preparing and setting up our coming Thursday Gathering and Ohigan Sesshin.

A few notes:

We have ordered 5 copies only of The Wholehearted Way, which is the text for Zen 101 beginning on October 4th. Please…

Elliston-sensei at Sesshin

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

This week we will be gathering together for sesshin in honor of Ohigan. Rev. KoMyo-sensei will arrive on Monday from California, Rev. Taiun Elliston-sensei will arrive from Georgia, Rev. Shoji and Student Ryugin will arrive from California on Wednesday, and our El Paso people will arrive on Thursday. Rev. Bussho from Deming will arrive Thursday. In addition to our Order’s members, we will host Rev. Gozen and Rev. Pries from the Zen Center of Las Cruces. So, our house will be full of Zensters and we will be practicing strongly in silence.

We are very much looking forward to our workshop day with Taiun-sensei on Thursday. The aim is to explore Matsuoka-roshi’s lineage and discuss the future direction of the Order of Clear Mind Zen. On Saturday morning Rev. Taiun-sensei will offer a presentation to the sesshin participants. Revs. KoMyo and Shoji will offer teishos on Saturday and Sunday respectively. On Sunday, after Rev. Taiun departs in the…

American Zen: the True Buddha Way

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

An certain Owen Flanagan, PhD recently blogged on Huffington Post that “Buddhism is first and foremost a complex philosophy about the nature of reality, the self and morality.” He goes on to suggest that we American Buddhists use a “code” for meditation by which he means to say, we actually practice the Buddha Way. Dr. Flanagan is right. But his thesis (that we are bourgeois Buddhists and know little to nothing of “Buddhism” is far from the mark as he completely misunderstands and mis-states the Buddha Way.

As anyone passing familiar with what we call “Buddhism” will tell us, there is actually no such thing as “Buddhism.” There are a set of practices taught by the Buddha, passed down through the millennia, refined and honed. The derived teachings from such practice when written about becomes something to test in our own practice, but philosophy? I do not believe so. It is only through a Western, academic eye, such might be the case. Buddh…

Ohigan Sesshin, Paramitas

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

We are getting very excited about our coming sesshin and Seniors gathering day. We have people from California and Texas, as well as Guest Teacher Rev. Taiun Elliston-sensei, coming. Thursday will be a workshop day led by Rev. Elliston and myself. We are hoping to have an open discussion about Soto Zen, our lineage, and opportunities to deepen our practice.

Beginning Friday evening we will enter Ohigan Sesshin and close that on Sunday afternoon. Ohigan, as you may know, is the sesshin done in honor of crossing over to the other shore, realizing we have never left. We prepare by beginning to examine the Six Paramitas. The paramitas, generosity, morality, patience, vigor, meditation, and wisdom, are aspects of our Buddha Nature, so to speak. They are the actualization of our True Nature. The thing is, these aspects, like all dharmas, are constantly changing. They are interdependent and interconnected. Therefore, we say they are empty.



With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Update: stress test was fun, but I suppose that is very subjective. I am one of those hapless individuals who enjoys being physically stressed. I enjoy running, biking, weightlifting, and in the distant past, Korean karate. Each, of course, to the max. Perhaps that is why I am feeling it now  Anyway, the stress test was the typical 3 minutes, three minutes, three minutes: each with an increased level of difficulty designed to get the heart rate up, open the arteries, and see what happens. The idea is to get to your “predicted HR max” based on age. I am 64 and that means my max should be 157 according to the Cardiac Care Tech.

So we started at a resting HR of 56 and climbed. At the end of the 9 minutes I was barely touching the predicted max so we agreed to go farther. She punched up the incline and increased the speed so I had to jog. I ended up after another minute or two at 162 and felt great.

I am beginning to think all of this stuff …

Zen Mindlessness

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

This morning I would like to report that I failed my stress stress due to not reading the instructions. After Zazen and dokusan yesterday, several of us went to Tokyo Sushi for lunch and I ate vegetarian fried rise with jasmine tea. Didn’t think anything of it until getting to the cardiac care center where Student Marcos offhandedly referred to fasting. Oy. Soooo, we rescheduled for today aqnd I was profusely apologetic and down-right embarrassed.

So, this morning at 11:30 stress test. No food, no coffee, no nothing.

Anyway, we will sit Zazen at 9:30 this morning and again at 6:00 PM. We will follow this with Zen 101 at 7:00. If you have any questions about Zen or your practice, this is the group to join.

Zen 101 will be moving into the next text for discussion which will be “The Wholehearted Way” a translation of Eihei Dogen’s Bendowa With Commentary by Kosho Uchiyama Roshi. This text is a foundational text for understanding the practice …

Zen is Being Now

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

The dawn has yet to break
across the mountains in the east.
Mesilla’s air is crisp,
September half over already,
and October looms close by.
Time seems to travel so quickly
as we age, and yet,
it seems like only yesterday…

…that I just could not wait for my fourteenth birthday so that I could get my “Restricted” Driver’s License and ride the motorcycle my step-father had bought for me.

Miami in the 1950’s was a very different place than it is now. But then, everything changes. Talking with a friend, who also grew up there, we remembered so many small details that seem to act as little anchors for our existence. Driving to the Keys in an old MG Midget, Wolfies, rock pit swimming, these were good times in the sun.

I wanted so much to be a scientist, but was soooo working class. I was a combined wannabe geek and biker, a condition that has seemingly defined my life over the decades. “Two Fires” my Navajo friend called me.

The good ne…

Mindfullness and Toxicity

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Let’s see, yesterday I did a wonderful little test at the skilled hands of Student Marcos who referred me to the cardiologist he works for at Cardiac Care here in New Mexico. I also did a duplex study of my arteries and a CAT scan of my brain with contrast. The physician was amusing in his grandeur, but solid in his approach. He read my record and did an exam at which point he indicated things looked good, but wanted further tests. I am scheduled for a treadmill stress test on Monday afternoon. The CAT and duplex results will not be available for a few days.

My sense at this point is that all of this is simple anxiety over noticing the subtle --- and sometimes not so subtle --- changes in my body. Zen practice is a practice that has us constantly noticing. We are supposed to “let go” of that which we notice. Perhaps I notice and let go of some, but not all, of this stuff. Aging is one of those processes that is resolutely constant and as …

September 16

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Every day brings moment to moment opportunities for change. Today I will undergo several important medical tests: an initial cardiac exam with my new cardiologist and a duplex carotid-vertebral arteries exam and a CT of my brain, for my new neurologist. For some time now I have experienced chest discomfort, pain, and shortness of breath and I had an anomaly on a routine EKG at my annual physical two months ago. My leg and arm seem to be deteriorating faster, and I have headaches several times a week. With encouragement from my partner and a few sangha members, I am getting these tests done. I am hopeful that we will find a cause and that this cause can be repaired.

From 1964, when I began practicing karate, through decades of recovery from combat injuries, and on into my experience of long distance running and the discipline of Zazen, I have come to believe deeply in the personal strength and power of each of us to overcome obstacles. Mor…

September 14

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Our Zen 101 group is going strong. It is so good to see such an interest in not only understanding Zen, but actually practicing it. We sit for an hour from 6:00 PM to 7:00, then hold a discussion based on a text selection. This week it was on Clouds and Water, the priest’s track in Zen. Next week we will talk about a lay track.

These distinctions are somewhat fuzzy here in the United States as most Zen priests are actually lay priests and not monastics. As in anything Zen, distinctions such as “monastic” and “lay” are more a thing of the mind than anything else. A priest who goes into sesshin or Zazenkai is a monastic. A priest can form relationships, even marry and have children, but in the Zen world, a priest has by vows, shifted priorities.

What is most central in a priest’s life is the condition of conditioned things: the universe itself. According to tradition, a priest takes vows leading to stability, service, simplicity, selflessne…

In the details

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

The morning air is much cooler now that we are entering September. We have turned off the air conditioners and opened the windows. It is a good thing to feel fresh air, but along with it comes teaser sounds which trigger both of our dogs to bark. So, we have fresh air and barking dogs. All is right in the world.

All day yesterday I worked on my painting, details for sesshin, the WebPages, and various other small tasks. I spoke over Skype with my disciples Rev. Kankin and Rev. KoMyo. In the first case we talked about our everyday practice, in the second case, preparations for the coming sesshin. Soku Shin was away most of the day taking care of business of a different sort.

Everyday practice is every moment practice. It involves realizing that each and everything we do, we should do with stillness of mind, what I will call “deep posture.” To do this we must give up our attachment to one form of practice over another. To do that we must rea…

September 12

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

Yesterday was September 11th, 2011, a day of its own accord. Today is September 12, also a day of its own accord. Let’s practice to stay in each day and live it, not another. I wrote on my “status” bar on Facebook, “When tears are our measure, rage soon follows. Zen living is not about tears or jeers, but rather, it is about not holding on to them. “

The measure of a Zen Center or a Teacher is not whether or not we are moved emotionally, but rather that we are taught to experience a feeling and let go of it before we turn it into something. Zen is not about feeling warm and fuzzy, it’s not about feeling special or serene or anything else. What Zen is about is direct experience of what is without grasping it, clutching it, or valuing it.

Yesterday our nation seemed emotionally captured by the violence perpetrated by a few tortured individuals. Our media (to their shame) flooded us for weeks with images of terror, sadness, and heroics. We (…

September 10

With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,

This morning, the morning of our day “off,” we both woke early and slipped into the studio to paint. Painting has become both a morning and evening meditation. This morning I had one spot lit and painted nearly in the dark. Color feels rich, but muted, in the dim light, but then when day emerges, the colors tend to pop out and say, “Good Morning!”

Last night our monitor burnt out for our DVD player. I am noticing things are breaking down: car, DVD screen, me. Soku Shin and I talked quietly in the dim light as I put paint on canvas. “What is it?” she asks, indicating in no uncertain terms that she reads me like a book. I tell her I am anticipating more paralysis, more diminishment of competency. The pain in my legs is getting unbearable at times. My left arm is more and more showing the effects of my aging brain. I can no longer walk quietly. I can no longer hold my left hand out without greater weakness. The fingers do not close as they us…


With palms together,

Good Evening Everyone,

On the Zen Living list, Ch’an Master Jue Miao Jing Ming , asked me a question the other day. “Dear Sensei, Do you consider Zen a Mahayana practice? If so, what does Mahayana actually do?”

While Zen is within the Mahayana tradition, it is not a Mahayana practice as I understand it. Student Rev. Shoji and I were discussing this question today and Rev. Shoji brought up an interesting distinction. He argued that Mahayana Buddhists aim at the Bodhisattva ideal to free all beings before they, themselves, enter nirvana. He points out that from a Zen point of view, self and other are one, therefore there is no one, but oneself, to free.

Zen Master Seung Sahn argues in his Compass, that both Theravadan and Mahayane traditions have “roads,” but that Zen has not only no road, but no map, as well. The practice is practice realization as one. Path and destination are not two.

These beg the question, however, “What does Mahayana actually do?”

Mahayana …