Zen 101

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Dear Readers,

This month we mark the US bombing of two cities in Japan with Atomic bombs. From Wiki:

On August 6, the U.S. dropped a uranium gun-type atomic bomb (Little Boy) on the city of Hiroshima. American President Harry S. Truman called for Japan's surrender 16 hours later, warning them to "expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth". Three days later, on August 9, the U.S. dropped a plutonium implosion-type bomb (Fat Man) on the city of Nagasaki. Within the first two to four months of the bombings, the acute effects of the atomic bombings killed 90,000–146,000 people in Hiroshima and 39,000–80,000 in Nagasaki; roughly half of the deaths in each city occurred on the first day. During the following months, large numbers died from the effect of burns, radiation sickness, and other injuries, compounded by illness and malnutrition. In both cities, most of the dead were civilians, although Hiroshima had a sizable military garrison.

Back in Sept 2013 I wrote the following:

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 most, action. This warmed my heart so much and humbled me greatly.

The atomic flame had been burning since it was ignited by our atomic attack on Japan. The monks of the temple where it was tended to believed it was time to extinguish the flame and “close the circle.” Three of them carried the flame by foot from Japan to Trinity Site here in New Mexico. We gathered together, bearing witness to this effort at forgiveness and closure. For me, it counts as much as my return trip to Vietnam where I was hosted by my former enemies toasted and welcomed. Hard stuff, this.

To live in peace we must be willing to get out of our own way, check our hatred and suspicion at the door of perception and raise compassion and love to embrace our countenance. I recognize for me this has taken years of practice and great effort, but I can tell you from my experience, it is so well worth the effort. We are a nation with a proven capacity to kill in the name of our defense, may we also be a nation equally willing to live in peace. Maybe we need to love ourselves a little less and love our neighbors a little more. Let us practice this together.

Be well

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Questions, Part One

With respect to all,

Today I had two different discussions with two of my students.  In the first case, I asked the student what her expectations of having a formal teacher were.  In the second case, a discussion about why practice zazen if nothing is to be gained. Both intriging and thought provoking questions.

Just what are the expectations of a student of a teacher?I suppose, and my experience bears this out, they are as varied as are students to have.  Each of us comes to the teacher with some idea as to what that teacher can or will do forth.Some see a teacher as a guru.  I don't believe this is a good idea.  Zen is about self falling away in order to be completely present with whatever is.Its not about guru worship, in fact, to have a guru misses the point of practice entirely, in my opinion. Besides, it diminishes the student's willingness to rely on him or her self to deal with their own lives.Others see a teacher as a friend.  Equally a bad idea.  A teacher is not a friend, a teacher is a teacher. Clarification of roles and role boundaries are, therefore, critical.

Why sit?  Master Dogen addresses this rather serious koan in his essay, Bendowa, in his Shobogenzo. so I won't go into his answer here. The student asks if there is no idea of gain and nothing happens, then why sit? We sit because that's whats in front of us to do. Lets not make it complicated.  Just sit.
The practice of "just sitting" is a practice that teaches us something about ourselves: it teaches us to simply be present with no agenda. We learn that there can be direct experience of ourselves with no sense that we must do something with it. When we achieve or develop the ability to just be present then all things become clear in the sense that we are able to "see" the things that take us away from ourselves and our actual experience and directly experience what is there..

These are beginning questions, to be sure, but incredibly important ones at that.  Beginning question, like all questions, require a "beginner's mind."  Our practice is to maintain that mind in each and every situation.  In part Two I will address the how of this.

Be well,

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Facebook Away

With respect, I just deactivated my Facebook account and invited my friends to follow me here on my blog site.  If you are one of them, simply follow the instructions on the site.  I look forward to hearing from you.  I will post here on pretty much a regular basis and my posts will be focused on engaged practice as well as everyday Zen.  Be well,