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Showing posts from 2013

Don't Waste Time

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



Last night our Study Group finished our study of “Living by Vow,” an excellent commentary on the key chants used in our Zen tradition. Next week we will begin our study of “Moku-Rai” a text of writings by Rev. Dr. Soyu Matsuoka-roshi.



In our group last night we closed out the Sandokai’s last verse, the first section reads:



Hearing the words, you should understand the source:

Don’t make up standards of your own.

If you don’t understand the path as it meets your eyes,

How can you know the way as you walk? (p.246)



As in a segment of the Heart Sutra, we should begin in the vast emptiness of Samadhi. This emptiness is the Buddha Nature from which all things manifest, including standards for life. To make up standards of our own separates us from our True Nature and creates duality. Meeting the path as it meets your eyes is an admonition to only go straight, doing what is in front of you to do.



Duality has no ground. It is relative. Discussion …

Silent Illumination

With palms together,




Good Morning Everyone,







It is late in the evening, approaching early morning, and my mind is at rest. I just read a short section in “The Kyosaku” by Rev. Dr. Soyu Matsuoka-roshi, my Dharma grandfather. In it he speaks of Zen as quietness and action. He says, “Soto Zen is an intuitive way, with little attachment placed on the knowledge of the mind in finding the truth about life and about its deeper meaning. Education is respected, but it is felt that the experience of the deep meaning of life will not be found in philosophical arguments or illogical questions and answers like the koan.” (p. 274)







Where might we find this “deep meaning” of life then? And what exactly does “deep meaning” mean? Frankly, I am of the experience that it has no meaning at all save that which we assign through our thoughts and feelings. Which is to say, it is highly subjective and therefore relative. Master Dogen (refining what a predecessor (Hongzhi [see "Cultivating the Empty Fiel…

Relax

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,

Wake Up!

If a teacher only tickles our ears, offering up what we want to hear, they aren't much of a teacher. The potential of a seed is only realized through much struggle, as it pushes through the ground and into the vastness under the clear blue sky (from a Facebook friend)



There is a koan about escaping hot and cold weather. A young monk is cold in the Zendo and asks his Master how to escape it. The Master asks him to find a place where there is neither heat no cold. The young monk struggles with this. In Matsuoka-roshi’s commentary on this koan, he says heat and cold are symbolic of our suffering in life. He acknowledges that we each suffer and want to find a way to live in happiness. Matsuoka-roshi says the way to do this is thru the practice of non-attachment.

“Non-attachment means rising above life and death, and happiness and suffering. This is how we can avoid extreme suffering in life, and how we can have happiness. It is im…

Canework

Written Thursday morning:




With palms together,

Good Morning Everyone,



It is wonderfully cool this morning in the desert southwest. I woke at 4:30 to a clear starlit sky and sat outside to practice both Zazen and canework. Of late I have, once again, taken an interest in the Martial Arts, but this time with my slowly worsening physical disabilities, I decided to select a cane for practice. I had spent a good ten years involved in a Korean form of karate called Moo Duk Kwan, eventually teaching in a small house-based dojo in South Carolina. I gave up karate in 1975 when my son was born, feeling the practice led to a sort of low-grade paranoia

Recently I was told by my doctors that I should not run or walk for exercise. As I kickstart my exercise regimen this leaves a vacuum on the aerobic side. I suppose I will take up biking at this point, and have prepared my bike to that end. It occurred to me that Martial Arts with Cane might be another alternative. When I was a long distance run…

Apologies

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



My apologies to those who attended this recent Zazenkai for my lack of presence both in body and mind. I had an unexpected physician’s appointment that morning and had just come off of a very late night doing an Honor Flight escort. I want to apologize as well to those students who sought dokusan only to be confronted by a sleepy teacher!



Self awareness is an essential part of a student’s life and, as a teacher, I continue to be a student. We teachers are also students and sometimes forget that we are fallible human beings with our own issues that need desperately to be addressed. There are those of us who are so full of ourselves that we cannot hear our students as they are. There are those of us who seem to think we no longer need to practice self awareness, convinced we know the Dharma. To the extent this is so, is the extent to which we are far away from the Dharma and, concomitantly, both ourselves and our students.



I cannot speak fo…

kajo

With palms together,


Good Morning All,



“In general, in the house of the Buddhist patriarchs, drinking tea and eating meals are everyday life itself. This behavior of drinking tea and eating meals has long been transmitted and is realized in the present. Thus, the Buddhist patriarchs’ vivid activity of drinking tea and eating meals has come to us.” Master Dogen Zenji, Fascicle 64, Shobogenzo, as translated by Nishijima-roshi.

In our practice we may draw a distinction between the Dharma on the one hand and talking about the Dharma on the other hand. The Dharma is everyday life, not what we say about everyday life. The Dharma is not the sutras; the sutras reflect the Dharma. If we want to know watermelon we must eat watermelon. Thus, to know the Dharma we must just eat when eating and drink tea when drinking tea. As Okumura-roshi suggests of firewood and ash in his commentary on the Genjokoan; each has its own Dharma reality,

When we eat or drink in this way we are buddhas eating and dr…

PC, Not

With palms together,


Good Morning All,



Yesterday on the way home from the hospital I saw a truck with a few bumper stickers. One read, “Secure our borders!” I can’t now recall the others. Anyway, I wondered at the time, what the driver wanted to secure our borders against. I suspect it was those pesky illegal immigrants who work in our fields, bringing us the food we enjoy or the cotton we love to wear, or maybe, it was about drug trafficking, terrorists, and other possible threats. Somehow I doubt it. I was wondering to myself if trucks along the Canadian border sport similar bumper stickers. Again, I doubt it as I really don’t believe we see Canadians as a threat, they are more like the dominant cultures, but it’s possible.



So, just what does “secure our borders” mean? I think if I were to ask the driver he would tell me some stories about how illegal’s are draining our resources or that they are taking jobs away from Americans. In the end, though, I think it really comes down to …

Trungpa

With palms together,


Good Morning All,

Awake late into the night I watched “Crazy Wisdom, the Life and Times of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.” This is a documentary about that rascal within Tibetan Buddhism who founded Naropa University and rocked the Buddhist world with his behavior, behavior which some say was a teaching in its own right and others might say was a living, on-going, violation of the precepts we live by. Perhaps appropriately so, I followed the film by reciting the robe verse and sitting on my cushion in our residence’ Zendo. Wednesday I will drive over to Palomas, Mexico to be fitted for a new set of sorely needed dentures, and on Thursday Kathryn Shukke Shin will undergo Gall Bladder surgery. As if this were not enough, I found out yesterday that a noise which recently developed in my motorcycle’s engine may mean major surgery on the bike. So, yes, was awake late into the night.



Life can be a challenging, if not a disturbing teacher at times. Trungpa Rinpoche was an …

I Talk TOO Much!

With palms together,


Good Morning All,



We are preparing for Kathryn’s gall bladder surgery this coming Thursday. We are hopeful that it can be done the relatively “easy” way, but are concerned she will need the large incision variety due to some old scaring tissue. We would like things to go smoothly and perfectly. But, we never know how things will unfold. As a result of this, I will not be available for a few days after her operation, especially this coming Sunday for services at the Zendo. Rev. Dai Shugyo will be offering our precept renewal service unless you hear otherwise. We will keep you posted.



Just like in medicine, in Zen it is a truth that there are no perfect answers, nothing to measure ourselves or our practice against. We might think that stories of enlightenment, “successful” practices, and other highly subjective measures are standards, but the only true standard is within each of us as we go through our day and encounter each moment. I would like to believe I am a …

Sesshin Concludes

With palms together,


Good Afternoon All,



This morning we concluded O-higan sesshin (intensive meditation retreat) with the traditional ceremony for feeding the Hungry Ghosts, segaki. This was one of my late teacher’s favorite ceremonies. When he performed it he used sweet cakes wrapped in white paper as offerings. This year I decided to use the more traditional rice and water. I think it was one of his favorites for two reasons, which may actually be one: the literal feeding of the hungry ghosts. He loved the cakes!



We each have a hungry ghost within us, just as we have the buddha-nature within us. Hungry Ghosts are those aspects of ourselves with insatiable desires but narrow throats: we can never get enough of that which we desire and so we suffer.



In our ceremony each participant wrote down the names of those who died this year or of those we knew were suffering. We also wrote down the things we’ve down which created suffering for others and/or ourselves. Each of us then approac…

A Day's Ramble

With palms together,


Good Afternoon Everyone,



Zendo Note: This evening at 7:00 PM we will continue sesshin, practicing until about 9:00 PM. We will continue Saturday from 7:30 AM until 8:30 PM, and again Sunday morning from 7:30 to 11:30 AM. Please join us.



Today is another wet one. I woke late, about 5:30 AM. It was raining. The pups refused to go out. I guess they were afraid to get their feet wet. I can’t blame them/ Yet, I took a ride this morning in what was a light rain. First I went to Veteran’s Park where I practiced Zazen in the rain. I remembered the monsoon season in Vietnam and left the park for B & N where I found a copy of Disciple Bobby Kankin Byrd’s poem, “Back Roads to Far Towns” on page 120 in the Fall issue of Tricycle magazine. From there, an unsuccessful trip to Wal-Mart, then the ride home in a harder rain. I arrived home soaking wet and grateful that I have a home to return to as so many others do not.



As I write I am looking at my painting-in-progress and…

To Live in Peace

With palms together,


Good Morning All,



With the stroke of a key uploading an old picture of three monks, my teacher, his wife, myself and another priest in our lineage, walking into Trinity Site, New Mexico carrying a flame originally lit by the atomic bomb blast in Nagasaki, I began to weep. I feel so alone without his presence. While we struggled often together, he was with me as I founded the Order of Clear Mind Zen. He was my support and conscience so often, checking me with his cold, sometimes angry stare. So often I feel as though I do not know what I am doing. So often I feel I am not doing enough. It appears that even in his death he still is teaching me.



I think, aside from weddings and ordinations, walking to Trinity Site with these Japanese Soto priests, who treated us with the greatest respect and gratitude for walking with them, this event was the most meaningful event in my life as a monk. It appears that we of Matsuoka-roshi’s lineage were accepted where it counts mo…

Appearances

With palms together,


Good Morning All,



Today is a good day. We are both very grateful for all the wonderful birthday wishes Kathryn received yesterday for her 60th birthday. We will spend the day recovering from all the excitement birthday celebrations bring. I will be scheduling an appointment to visit a dentist in Palomas, Mexico to replace my aged and now broken dentures. It is an insightful experience to have broken two of my denture’s teeth and having, thereby, face my own ego regarding my appearance.



When the second tooth broke I spent a lot of time and effort supergluing it back in. At some point, it just became impossible and I decided to let it go. It seems our appearance is important to us, yet in the world of Zen we practice to let go of our attachments to such things and this, as well as shaving my head, became a central practice.



It is a good thing to practice in this way. I stared into my bathroom mirror, sometimes for a quarter hour at a time, just looking at myself…

Good Morning All

With palms together,


Good Morning All,



This morning I woke late as I had a late night last night. Yesterday I taught two high school classes about Zen Buddhism, the last one concluding at 9:30 PM and offered zazen at Golden Mesa retirement community in the early afternoon. As is typical of me, I returned home pumped. It is such a pleasure to offer the Buddha’s Dharma to others. I am grateful to Ms. Victoria Glover-Fisk of the New American High School for providing me with this wonderful opportunity to be of service.



I have found people of all ages have a genuine interest in the Buddha Way. A small introductory instruction and practice session always seems to demonstrate the serene power of zazen. Yet, as we know, to take up this practice in earnest is a serious challenge to everyone. My hope is that students and attendees of such classes will remember these moments and eventually come to make the practice a part of their lives.



Two reminders: Thursday evening Zazen in the Zendo is …

A Day

With palms together,


Good morning all,



This morning I woke later than usual: 4:45 AM! Goodness, the day seemed half over! I decided to be lazy, sitting outside for awhile, tried to clean up my little PC, and sipped coffee. Soon I will go to my annual physical…two years late…and see what’s what. After this I have an opportunity to teach a high school class about Buddhism at 2:00 and an evening class at 8:30. I always look forward to these opportunities as I have found there is nearly always a curiosity about this faith tradition.



What to say to these students? My talks usually begin with my war experience as that pretty much frames the reasons behind my spiritual journey and discovery of Zen. I often follow that with a brief story about the Buddha and how the Buddha Way migrated from India to the rest of the world. I follow this with comments about the Buddha Way being more a practice than belief system and conclude with the practices themselves. It’s a neat little package and can eas…

A Hot Bath Zazen

With palms together,


Good Morning All,



This morning I woke to take a long hot bath in Epsom salts. Over the last week or so these baths have been incredibly helpful for relieving my arthritis. To say nothing of my back muscle pain. But I found another benefit, one I am sure women have known for centuries: they are an excellent contemplative practice. Yes, a cup full of salts in very hot water, a body slipping gingerly down into the tub and a mindful bliss arises from the steam.



Zen is not a singular practice. It is not only zazen. Zen, to be true Zen, is in every moment. Zen is being awake and wholeheartedly present with each and every breath in each and every action. Too often, it seems to me, books on the practice of Zen focus their entire attention on zazen. I think this is a big mistake as it suggests zazen is IT. But zazen, in my opinion, is not IT, whereas an awakened life is.



Yesterday I suffered from sleepwalking through my day. I was sleepwalking due to a drug I was prescr…

Patience, yet again

With palms together,


Good Afternoon All,



This morning I am feeling the repercussions of thoughtlessness regarding my body and its age. Somehow, the other day, I tweaked a muscle in my lower back. I say “somehow” because I do not recall doing it, but by deduction know I did as this morning (though clearly healing) I am still quite sore. Yesterday it was a challenge to walk without my lower back seizing up and telling me to sit down! This morning, however, things are healing and my back is not seizing as it did yesterday.



So, the good news is I am healing, but the bad news is, I have a little ways to go so I will not be riding today nor doing much of anything at all. I really do not like not doing things around the residence as this puts a lot of strain on the love of my life, Kathryn. On the other hand, I know that stopping what I’m doing and giving myself time to recover will allow me to recover more quickly, thus relieving Kathryn.



We call this patience. Patience is one of the si…

Refuge

With palms together,


Good Morning All,



This morning is exceptionally beautiful. The air has a coolness to it, the sky has few clouds, the moon is full, and I sit here looking forward to the sun’s rise over the Organ mountains. It is good to be alive and present in the moment. Yesterday I rode my motorcycle up to Socorro, about 150 miles each way, with my Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association. We had 15 bikes and met-up with members from the northern part of the state. We had our monthly Chapter meeting there and I thoroughly enjoyed both the ride and the company. Today we will practice Zazen in the Zendo at 10:00 AM and will renew our vows as Zen Buddhist practitioners. Each of these are wonderful moments and each have their own Dharma reality.



We take refuge in the Three Treasure: buddha, dharma, and sangha. These are, unfortunately, often thought of in the most shallow terms. Buddha is not the person of Shakyamuni, but rather, from the root of the word, awake. We take refuge in be…

A few notes

With palms together,


Good Afternoon All,



Thank you for taking the time to read my notes from time to time. This afternoon a few housekeeping notes are in order. First, we will be practicing sesshin from the evening of Wednesday the 11th through Sunday morning at noon on the 15th of September. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are evening practice only from 7:00 PM through 9:00 PM. Saturday will be all day from 7:30 AM to 8:00 PM, and Sunday from 7:30 AM to 11:30 AM. Please let me know if you intend to sit with us.



Second, our Study Group is moving along very well. I hope to see some of you who haven’t attended join us. We meet in the Zendo from 6:30 to 7:30 each Tuesday evening and are involved just now in Chapter Three addressing the Three Treasures of Okumura-roshi’s “Living by Vow.”



We continue to practice Zazen in the Veteran’s Park on Roadrunner at 9:00 AM Friday mornings and again on Thursday’s at 7:00 PM in our Zendo. Our Sunday morning service begins at 10:00 AM.



Practicing toge…

Bodhisattva Vows

With palms together,


Good Morning All,



At our Temple we are studying the Bodhisattva Vows. At last night’s meeting I asked our group what their Bodhisattva Vow might be. Our text, “Living by Vow” presented several examples of people who had personal vows in addition to the Four Great Vows. This would be a challenging question, I suspected, and it was. For in our answer we reveal much about ourselves. Our discussion was lively and, in the end, students left with a thing or two to practice with…as did I.



Bodhisattva Vows are a foundation of Zen practice. We recite these vows daily in order to put them in the center of our mind’s eye. They are a solemn promise/commitment to action:

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.



Each vow is rather like a koan. How to free a being? If beings are numberless, how can I vow to free them all? The…

Brad Warner Tour

Image
Clear Mind Zen Temple will host controversial author, Brad Warner, at the Center for Spiritual Living! Brad authored "Hard Core Zen" which started him down the rocky road of Zen politics and controversy. Several books later he has come out with "There is No God...and He is Always With You." Come meet this breath of fresh air in the Zen world. Join us!

News

With palms together,




Good Morning Everyone,







As most of you are aware, we have been thoroughly busy with packing, moving, changing around the Zendo, a roadtrip to South Dakota, and just yesterday, a trip to Albuquerque. In the works is a visit from Zen teacher, author, and rebel Zenster, Brad Warner. Brad has agreed to come to El Paso and Las Cruces in July. I believe he will be in El Paso on the 12th and here in Cruces on the 14th. He has published a new book, "There is No God and He is Always With You" which I am reviewing. I can tell you it is a very good read; thought provoking and insightful.







Since we have been so busy, I have given some thought to our Engaged practice. I think it is best to continue to do park and street practice on Wednesdays at the Federal Building at 5:00 PM and at Veteran's Park on Roadrunner at 9:00 AM Fridays. I will no longer sit at the City Hall park on Mondays. Zazen will continue on Thursday evenings at 7:00 PM and on Sundays at 10:00 AM.…

Zendo News

With respect to all,

Good Morning Everyone,



We have excellent news regarding our Zendo. Jane Grider has agreed to rent the entryway room. This will reduce our portion of the rent to $370.00 per month. I believe this is quite managable and will allow us toi keep our Zendo open. The landlord has agreed to a month to month lease. I am very happy that this has happened, as I am sure you are as well. I look forward to practicing with you in the future.



We will need a little help moving the tan and butsudan out of the room. We also need to clean out/sort out the closet. Perhaps this coming Sunday?



I am sorry I have not been writing to you very much of late. Worse, I have missed several dokusan appointments through my lack of attention. So many things are happening that have taken so much of my time, energy, and attention. A very long and incredibly painful year of spinal issues topped the list for awhile and going through a rather long and costly divorce has been a terror. Kathryn and I …

God

With palms together,


Good Morning All,



This morning I woke at 4:30 AM and sat outside under the stars. It is a lovely morning with a slight chill in the air and a clear sky. It occurs to me that I have not written to you for awhile. So, this morning as I sat I remembered that last night Shukke Shin and I were talking and the topic of God came up. So many of us struggle with our understanding of God, some reject the existence of a deity, others assume He or She or It exists, but quickly forget about it in everyday life, dismissing God as meaningless in daily life. In Zen, while we might argue that each of us must come to our own understanding or not, it is our practice that is most important. .

To quote John Lennon from his song “God” he says, “God is a concept by which we measure our pain.” He goes on to list all the things he doesn’t believe in and concludes: “The dream is over.” We each must encounter our ideas, dreams, and our lives. Some of us frame our lives around our ideas, o…

Sequester Values

With Palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



Our government does not care about the people it serves or the people who serve it. A story on the Huffington Post helped me see this more clearly. Apparently, Congress decided rather quickly to lift sequester restrictions on programs assisting our nation’s airline traffic, but did nothing to ease the constraints being imposed on programs that actually save lives such as Meals on Wheels, Medicare, and support services for our military, among a host of others.



This, it seems to me, is a class issue, and because it is so, should involve the conscience of those in all faith traditions, including Zen Buddhism Programs that help our poor, our retired, and those least able to mobilize and advocate, have been set aside, and the one program that assists those who are in a position to afford to fly from one place to another is granted a lessoning of restrictions. This is outrageous. Since when is it a priority over life itself to fly?



I grant tha…

Kesa in the Morning

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



Let's see, the sun came up this morning in a glorious burst over the Organ Mountains. I witnessed the gradual lightening of the night sky, then, with a sudden burst, there it was, the sun. I never seem to tire of this display of natural power. It evokes a sense of humility in my nature and hope in my heart.



Today in the Zendo I will speak about the verse of the kesa. This is a wonderful symbol, like the sun, it evokes a sense of humility and hope. I am deeply humbled by the fact that since Master Dogen's time in the 13th century to the present; we have raised the kesa to our heads and opening it, wrapped ourselves in its 'field of benefaction.'



The verse Okumura-roshi uses differs slightly to the one commonly accepted among sanghas in the Soto school. It says, "Wearing the Tathagatha's teaching we vow to save all beings," whereas we use the word, "free" rather than "save." We might think thi…

Bodhisattva Reminders

With Palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



Awake at 3:45 AM I painted, read the news, and found myself crying. What evoked such a reaction in me was the story of soldiers with fatigues and 40 pound packs marching the Boston marathon only to race to assist victims in the aftermath of the bombings. I have done a marathon and a score of half marathons, and I can tell you at the end of 26.2 miles even under the best conditions, a body is thoroughly exhausted, yet these soldiers leapt into action without knowing if another explosion was imminent and assisted victims. This is selfless service. To me, this is the best of the bodhisattva ideal made manifest before our eyes.



So, this morning at 9:00 AM when I take my seat to practice zazen at the Veteran’s Memorial on Roadrunner Parkway, I will keep these soldiers and others in my mind’s eye. It’s not that soldiers are the ideal: millions of others from all walks of life typify selfless service on a daily basis, it’s that these soldiers an…

Reality, Part Two: Boston

With palms together,


I bow to each reader,



This evening let us each offer incense and a recitation of the Heart Sutra on behalf of those injured in Boston this afternoon. Such events are unimaginable and unconscionable. Yet, we live in a time when events like this occur around the globe.



We are all asking questions, seeking answers, and needing someone or some group to blame. For me, I know blame is a tricky thing as it keeps me away from the event itself. Surviving trauma is like that : we want to make sense of the irrational. Don’t try.



We already know what we need to know. We just need to look deeply into our own hearts. We are human beings who love and hate, seek justice often with revenge, and want punishment for those responsible for hurting us.



Turn to your faith tradition and its practices. Notice the love and compassion we feel for those hurt and for those who so quickly aided the injured. So, while the world is a place with danger and outrageous acts, it is also a place …

Reality

With Palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



I am wondering about what some might call "Ultimate Reality" as opposed, I presume, to an "ordinary reality" or simply, reality itself. I suggest anyone that posits an "ultimate reality" is, in my opinion, deluded as such a person has, perforce, mentally and spiritually divided reality.



While it is true that in Zen we have an Absolute and Relative, it is equally true that when penetrated these are realized as one. When understood as two, this understanding is also deluded. We don't move toward "the Ultimate" we realize that "the Ultimate" and the ordinary are one and both are simply a fiction created by a brain that quite naturally perceives itself as separate from the world around it. So, we might ask, what is “reality” before our brain senses the world around us? Yes, what was your face, the face you had before your father and mother were born?



We might say, “nothing.” Literally, “no…

War, not!

With Palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



This morning I will ride with my combat veterans brothers and sisters to a funeral for a fallen combat brother who died in Afghanistan. I am sick of the killing resulting from war. Do we even know what this man died for? I doubt it. If we ask any random American citizen what we are fighting for in that part of the world they either wouldn’t know, wouldn’t care, or would offer some lame reason such as “to fight terrorism.” I am unconvinced that this is an adequate answer for the cost in lives and dollars at a time when we in the United States are in desperate need of financial recovery and when we have so many facing homelessness, poverty, and lack of health care.



What I really don’t understand is why we, the people, haven’t coalesced to demand of our president and our congress to end this nightmare. Yet, frankly, when I look more deeply at the issue, I see that this war doesn’t really touch those in a position to put real pressure on the …

Shukke: another perspective

With Palms together,




Good Morning Everyone,







Zen found its birth with the posture of the Buddha 2600 years ago. He taught us to sit upright and, as a result, we might live upright. For me, living upright means living steadfast and living in peacefully in the moment as it is. I am not always successful, but then, unlike the Buddha, I am living as a householder and not surrounded by those practicing the Buddha Way.







In Master Dogen’s Shobogenzo, he makes the case in two fascicles (Shukke and Shukke-kudoku) that to leave home is the best and only way, to attain the Way. Perhaps. I have always been suspect of this point of view. It seems to me, home-leaving and surrounding oneself with practitioners is the easiest way, but not the only way.







In Shukke Kodoku he takes issue with Nagarjuna who stated that lay persons who take the precepts are able to attain not only the bodhisattva way, but also nirvana itself, Nagarjuna asks, why it is necessary to leave family life. Dogen replies, “Clear…

Sesshin and Takuhatsu

With Palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



The ride home from Austin was tough. I rode the 650.4 miles in one day. It was cold in the morning and hot in the afternoon. My butt was quite sore, but I think I am, at this point, what biker’s call, an “Iron Butt.” Anyway, I am happy to be at home and ready to begin sesshin tomorrow evening.



Hannamatsuri is a very special time. We celebrate the birth of the Buddha by recounting the story, offering flowers and sweet tea, and practicing zazen diligently. We will open sesshin Wednesday evening at 7:00 PM. I look forward to seeing you in the Zendo.



Lastly, it is time to ask for donations and dana. Please honor your pledges to maintain the Zendo. You may donate through our paypal button on our website at http://clearmindzen.org or send a check to: The Order of Clear Mind Zen, 642 South Alameda Blvd., Suite E, Las Cruces, NM 88005.



Thank you very much and Gassho.

Morning Musings

With Palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



Morning comes in silence. As the occasional car passes, it’s like a streamer of sound, a wisp through the morning light. Even the pups remain asleep. So, why am I awake at 4:30 in the morning? Why ask why, I answer myself.

A painting is calling me to it. The courtyard seems to await my presence. The bed feels as though it is throwing me out. With all of that, I have little choice but to get up and do.

Outside, I sit quietly just being there in the cold air. My robe barely fends off the chill. Yet, the sky and ground are my home and the air, whatever its temperature, is me.

Inside, I pick up a brush, squeeze out some paint, and throw it on my canvas. It’s a painting of a fearless bodhisattva, it feels fierce to me and I’m almost afraid of it. Yet, there I am, Dharma combat, perhaps? I don’t know. And I try to remain as ignorant as possible. Knowing is a dis-ease of the mind and becomes an obstacle to seeing clearly.

Today I vow to live wit…

On Wind and Other Matters

With Palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



This morning it is a little on the chilly side and I hear a breeze already kicking up. It is the “windy season” here in New Mexico which means we can expect winds of between 20 and 50 mph most days. The wind picks up sand and dust and our air becomes a challenge for breathing. I sat in the courtyard this morning, early, before the breezes came. It was quite peaceful.



Today we will bear witness for peace in the park in front of the Branigan Library next to City Hall at 4:30. Please join us if you can. Practicing meditation in the open air can be a powerfully serene experience… if the wind doesn’t get in the way! Still, the Buddha sat regardless, as did all of the ancestors, accepting what came without resistance. This is the heart of the Buddha’s teaching: remain calm even in the midst of a storm. His practice of serene reflection meditation offers us the opportunity to develop the discipline to do just that.



I’m planning a road trip to Au…

Allowing Your Mind to Rest

With Palms together,




Good Morning Everyone,







Looking at the world I do not see. To see I must quit looking. This is the Zen way. When I look for something I become attached to that thing, a thing that only resides in my mind’s eye: a thought. Becoming attached to a thought is rather like becoming attached to an ice cream on a hot summer’s day. It will soon be gone if I eat it or not.







When I see, I allow my mind a rest, so to speak. I do not give my mind a rest; I allow my mind to rest. Seeing requires not looking, not seeking, not imagining. It requires simply opening our eyes and allowing what is there come to us.







When I paint or write I am simply reflecting what is already there. It is that something that exists before during and after: it is timeless. It is something not manipulated by me. We might call it our original nature, but I can’t be certain. What I know is that when I allow my mind to rest and just express what comes up, that something which emerges is so often completel…

The Moon & I

With Palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



This morning early, say around 3:00 AM or so, I sat outside in the cold staring at the moon. During the full-moon part of the lunar cycle I enjoy establishing this union with our celestial neighbor as we reflect together on one another. The early morning is the best time for such intimacy because there are very few noises, one-to-none cars passing by, and the air is often as crisp as the sky is clear.



As the moon and I consider ourselves, our union becomes more and more intimate. We move quickly past the superficial and enter the world of “don’t know.” The moon: she is wise, she is old, and she is nearly always there. Her wisdom is reflected in her reflection of the sun’s light. Like a pool of water, she receives the light, but does not grasp it. She returns the light to the universe and I, a resident member of that universe, receive it. In my mind’s eye, I return it, not wishing to hold onto such a lovely gift. It is a free and easy play …

Engaged Practice and Retreat

With Palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



Zen is much larger than a Zendo. It is life itself. We move from the wall to the open air, as the Buddha did in his lifetime. When I began this Order I envisioned it to practice in a Zendo without walls. It is certain that wall sitting is important and can be done in our own homes either alone or in small groups. Yet, the mission of Engaged Practice is to actually engage.



I will resume park and street practice shortly and offer to each of you the invitation to join me. I encourage each of you to establish an Engaged Practice in your area serving vulnerable populations, your community, or the nation at large. It’s not that difficult: the need is everywhere; in every city and town and even in rural areas. Homelessness, poverty, death and dying, and violence know no geographic limits. Please consider this.

Be well.

PS. In the meantime, as I indicated in an earlier note, I will hold a Personal Retreat beginning Thursday evening this week. Zaz…

Zendo Closing

With Palms together,




Good Morning Everyone,







It is with regret and deep sorrow that I announce the closing of the Clear Mind Zen Temple effective the third week of April after Hannamatsuri Sesshin. I will ask our landlord to release us from the lease (it ends anyway in August). In accordance with our by-laws, I will retain all ceremonial objects and altars. I will also retain one tan. The rest of the tans will be discarded unless anyone locally would like to have a tan. In addition, I have a number of altars and other objects made by my teacher, Rev. Hogaku McGuire. These are available to any who wish to come and retrieve them. None of his Dharma heirs have chosen to do so, so I am making them available to the public. Whatever is left after 30 days will be discarded. Please let me know if any of you want a tan or to look at what may be available to you to support your practice.







I will be in Personal Retreat at the Zendo from Thursday evening through Sunday afternoon. Remember, Zazenk…

Sunday

With resprct,


Good Morning Everyone,



This morning at the Zendo we will renew our vows and hold a short memorial service for my brother, Douglas William Hilbert. Doug was a good man and an exceptional father. Doug married early, but due to the presses of building a business, divorced after their second child was born. Even though he was divorced, he cared for his wife when she developed cancer and died. Douglas never remarried.



He cared for our mother throughout his life. He was a Vietnam Veteran who contracted diabetes after returning from his service. As a young man he was an exceptional athlete, developed lifelong friends, built a air conditioning and refrigeration business, and still managed to have time for his children.



While I left home after the war, he remained in Miami. Doug was not an adventurer. He was a family man and lived out his obligations to his family with great care and dedication. I honor him and was pleased that we saw each other one last time last year. While …

Joy

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



Someone wrote to me recently and suggested that I might pause to find the joy in my life. It seems to readers, I suppose, that I have been dwelling on the pain and suffering of my life to the exclusion of my pleasure and joy. This is an important point. The truth is, however, I have a tremendous amount of joy in my life, but like many of us, I do not speak of it very often or very plainly. And that, my friends, is a serious omission. Let me recount just three of my joys.

My joy begins and ends (as each day does) with my fiancée, Kathryn, who has brought such light into my life that it is difficult to give it justice in words. I often watch her sleep and in this witness I am reminded of all things beautiful. She sleeps with such innocence and such peace. In the morning I sometimes cradle her until she wakes. As she snuggles closer I feel my heartbeat increase. This is life itself.

Sitting outside in the early morning feeling the chilled, m…

Ability

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



"This was the turning point of my practice. I became free of my own practice. I became free of my teacher's teaching and the Buddha's teaching. I just settled down in the reality where I was and practiced as much as possible. This is really peaceful practice. You don't need to compete. Just settle down. If I hadn't had physical problems, I don't think my practice would have changed. I thought I was a great Zen master, but fortunately or unfortunately that didn't happen. Adverse experience gave me a broader view of the Dharma. I am really grateful for that. This is bodhisattva practice." (Okumura-roshi, Living by Vow, p.192)



Okumura makes a wonderful confession in this text. His pain, a result of years of sitting, hard physical labor, and the need to practice begging for food and money in Japan, forced him to assess his practice. He found that his determined practice was itself a desire, a goal, and that w…

Art Practice

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



My easel is empty. I finished the painting I was working on and hung it in our living room, which has become a gallery of sorts. Over the last three days I sold three paintings, a very good thing as I was nearly broke. The three were small paintings and sold for $75.00 each. I find it hard to ask more and my most expensive piece is “only” $250.00. For many today, that is not a lot of money for a painting, for many others (including myself) this is a lot of money. No matter: I continue to paint and occasionally sell something and this process pleases me greatly because I see art as practice and it is so wonderful to see people enjoy my work and be able to afford to buy it for their homes.



I had a short discussion with a retired art professor friend yesterday on Facebook messenger. I wondered in what sort of style he thought my paintings were. I told him I saw my art as “Impressionistic” and wondered what he thought. He told me such labels …

Zendo

With palms together,


Good Morning Everyone,



It’s a Saturday morning and we will practice Zazen together tomorrow morning in our Zendo. I am concerned that our numbers are dwindling. Zen practice as a Sangha is very important to our development as followers of the Great Way laid out by the Buddha himself. Just as we take refuge in the Buddha and the Dharma, so too, we take refuge in the Sangha.



Over the years I have noticed how practicing Sanghas increase and decrease in terms of Zendo participation. I have noticed how Study Groups come and go and in this I am often caught by the question, “What’s this?” I look at myself. Is there something I am doing or not doing that would account for the dwindling numbers? In truth, I doubt it. I think it is the practice itself and the relative centrality of the practice that is the root cause. Zazen is very difficult and we come to the Zendo often hoping that the practice will make ourselves or our lives better and when it does not or we fail to…