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Showing posts from July, 2012

Genzo-e Continues

Shohaku Okamura is a tall, strong looking man. He sits in the middle of the zendo, directly in line with our Shaykyamuni Buddha and Manjusri alter, a towering Jizo behind him. When it’s time for ceremony, he steps aside and our abbess procedes as the doshi, making offerings and bowing, while Okamura stands back.  Is this because he is a guest teacher here or is he continuing his teacher’s, Uchiyama Kosho Roshi, practice of only chanting the four great vows while avoiding elaborate ceremony? Either way, it seems appropriate.
He fills a room with his smile, which wells up with surprisingly honest warning, like this:
“Suzuki Roshi lectured on Dogen for two or three years at the end of his life. Most of the students fell asleep at Tassajara. Maizumi Roshi said that when he talked about koans, his students were very awake, but when he talked about The Lotus Sutra, most of them fell asleep. Today, I’m going to talk about Dogen and The Lotus Sutra…this is not so good for staying awake, but…

The Buddha Is The Great Earth: Genzo-e

Okamura arrived for lunch yesterday. For the next five days we will study the fascicle 38 of the Shobogenzo, Only a Buddha Together with a Buddha.

It starts, "Buddha dharma cannot be known by human beings."

Yay!

I don't find that discouraging, but I'm sure people do, and I used to. I read it as a advancement of epistemology, going beyond how we know what we know.

Epistemology states there is knowledge we learn, like an apple is red, has seeds, and grows on a tree, and knowledge we experience, like the apple has skin, can taste crisp or mealy, and the seeds don't actually grow the apples we taste.

Study and experience.

I think when Dogen says that Buddha dharma cannot be known (studied and experienced) by humans, he's asking humans to push past what it means to be a slave to the skandhas, to our perception.

I thinks he's asking us to cultivate our affinity notion by attuning another sense our Buddha bodies are equipped with.

We'll see what Okamura has …

You can't spoil what's rotten: Batman Spoilers Today!

10 of us signed out from Zazen on Monday evening, and the tenken pad read, "nananananananananananananananananananana BATMAN!"

The tenken pad is a record we sign so the Ino (monk in charge of Zendo etiquette, practice discipline) knows who's seat is available. It might also provide some long view insight for any resident sangha members who might need extra support for showing up. You'd be surprised how hard it can be to maintain the way seeking mind, even with the zendo just footsteps away. 
Batman refers to the movie that everyone is talking about. And tragedy aside, it's the worst movie I've seen in a really long time.
It might be unfair to point out its capitalist, patriarchal, and techno-Utopian propaganda, but I'll write it anyway because I haven't read anyone else actually say anything about it. A couple messages I received during the movie was: 
1. Big business has the only real potential to save us in time of crisis.  2. Any female villain is o…

Pruning Guan Yin

Yesterday, the farmers took a field trip to the garden, where we learned how to prune fruit trees. Sharp clippers are a must!

Those espalier dwarf apple trees are really amazing. Each one was grafted to a root base- cutting a notch in the root base, and inserting the tree into that notch, and amazingly a tree grows fruit. Only a two to three year old branch bears fruit and our mission was to support those branches by cutting all the vegetation growth, little branches that would just suck up energy, around the thickness of the a pencil.

Some of the branches on our trees are 30 years old! Some, just a couple months. As I made my way around the branches I could see where other gardeners had gone before me. Some cuts were were wonderful; clean 45 degree angles, two leaves above the base clusters. Some were like mine; mostly okay, but some not so confident, not so clean.

The whole process reminds me of what the farm manager said when I asked her what our farm mission was: Production? Educ…

Empty Weekend!

Kosho told me once that emptiness is letting whatever coming your way be free of what you think it is. I'm thinking about this now and my strike last weekend. 


Last weekend, I went on a socialization strike and decided to honor my introverted side. For many weekends now, it seems I've been whisked away by some engagement- some required as a student here and  some familial duties. And all of sudden I felt very drawn down. I hadn't seen the beach in some time, hadn't run to the top of our hill to see our little valley from our Hope's Cottage. So, I bowed out of dinner plans and a tubing trip that Lulu and I had planned. She still went, while I leaned back to enjoy my upcoming empty weekend. 


Until it didn't look very empty. 


The farm needed a volunteer for Sunday sales after the dharma talk. I couldn't resist. Our pond needed a reservoir transfer and I was the only irrigation crew member available. My tea ceremony tutor wanted to meet on Sunday night. I had a da…

27 yards of black

A couple weeks ago, my teacher asked me what I intend to do with my ordination. I quickly answered, "Plant crops, do calligraphy." Not really complete, but he thought if that's all I do, that would be great.

What in the world do I intend to do with my ordination? Ejun Linda Ruth, abbess here at Green Gulch told me 4 years ago that someone who wears the kesa is both asking for help keeping the way and giving help for keeping the way. This seems more complete, and very open- what does keeping the way look like for me?

Living by the precepts. There's 16 for us in the Soto Zen tradition. The one I practice the most with is right speech, which sets the parameters of:
1. Not saying anything about someone who is not in the room.
2. Offering only what is true, beneficial, and timely.
3. Refraining from offering my opinion when is not asked for.
4. Only speaking when it improves silence.

Of course, I violate these everyday. I also confess and avow these everyday. It's a r…

Thusness

I've been thinking a lot about how we all go into the Zendo every morning and what might be happening on the many cushions to my right, left, in front, and behind me. We're supposed to be practicing Shikantaza- thinking-non-thinking-or at least trying to approach that. But I love what Katagiri roshi said about that, something like, "You know, for 30 years I've been trying to practice Dogen's Shikantaza...then I realized that it doesn't exist!"

I'm convinced that anyone who sits will have kensho experiences, is opening up, and is a sitting Buddha. It's either that, or they're insane. We sit two 40 minute periods every morning at 4:45am, and something beyond the Ino's watchful eye inspires us to show up. We might not be able to put it into words, but something is transforming for us.

Why is everyone having kensho? Because it doesn't involve "you." You might not remember it, but I think it's remembered somewhere, somewhere w…

Death is an expression, complete this moment.

Last night I met with my teacher.

He's Kosho Zenrei, head teacher of Austin Zen Center, and I see him about once every two months.

As I was walking down Laguna in San Fran, he was hanging out the window calling for me. I was late; traffic on the Golden Gate. He was waving and smiling.

As soon as I walked in, I got a big hug and a quick inspection. He's asked me to grow my hair until ordination. Last time, he wanted to fix it because it looked a little plastered down. This time, much longer and held back by sunglasses, he just tousled it a bit.

His hand pulled back a little and he said, "What's that?"
                                                               "It's still a little wet," I lied.
                                                        "Your eyes have a very hard look," he said while rubbing my shoulders.
                       "Farm stuff," I lied again. "I walk in, and I can't help but look for somethin…