Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Dharma Gates are Boundless, I Vow to Enter Them

In addition to keeping this blog, I also keep a composition note book (modgepodged with neat pictures). I’m 2 pages from filling my current note book. In one month at Green Gulch, I’ve written half of it full. During my 4 year teaching career, I filled a composition once a year. This means I’ve written more in one month than I did with 6 months in my old life. I don’t know what this points to, but it’s interesting, and I must admit, it feels just plain good.

It might have filled up so fast because I do about 4 things in the same notebook now: Chart my moods with a line graph, write a haiku everyday, confess ancient twisted karma, investigate kensho or satori (delusion?), and take copious amounts of cornell notes on what I am studying.

Please let me express my elation at having time and teachers for formal sutra study. It is slow and tedious work. For the last week, I’ve read the same three pages of the Lankavatara sutra and it’s not getting old. I pop out of bed at 3:50am so I can get 40 minutes of study in; it is a wonderful life! I think this may be my dharma gate.

Just to let any non-zennies know, this is a completely optional, perhaps even discouraged practice. In the Zen tradition, you don’t have to read a lick if you don’t want to, and I really take refuge in that. This path is open to anyone who has the will to pick em’ up and puttem’ down (the feet), follow the schedule, open their hearts, let go, and radically accept.

But before and after I do all that, I like, I love, I lurve, to read the old instructions, the old stories. Hearing that Shi-Shi Bodai got his head cut off and milk squirted to the sky and the old King’s axe wrapped around his hand, which fell off, brings me opening. Unpacking the the 5th skhanda and its 8 levels inspires me. It speaks to me; it tells me there is more than I am seeing, it tells me that the story may not be “true” but it the story is truly being told, maybe a thousand years later, by us, and that’s the warm hand to warm hand warming my heart.

Some others, before and after, practice the way of tea. Poetry for the other others, and onward to calligraphy, flower arranging, archery, sauntering in the mountains (which I dabble in) and countless, boundless, dharma gates.

So...what is your dharma gate?


  1. Beautiful post AJ. Still looking for my dharma gate but looking is pretty fun :-)

  2. Writing has always been very therapeutic for me. It seems like it has been for you too; it's like it has become a part of your spiritual practice.

  3. It might have been my first practice!

    1. Study geeks unite. This is what drew me to the Maezumi lineage. Dalai Grandma is right, below, of course. Dharma gates are limitless, or at least numbering 10,000 -- depending on your sources.

  4. I have practices - liking contemplative poetry this year - but I read "dharma gates are countless" to signify that every moment is reality: enter there.

  5. I meant to say "contemplative photography," though I still write poetry now and then.