Wednesday, July 4, 2012

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 something to do or fix."

That was the truth, but my hair wasn't wet, it was greasy, it wasn't farm stuff, it was world stuff, and I was looking for ways to fix it.

It didn't seem the right time to pour this out:

"Yes, I have a hard look because I've recently come to realize that patriarchy, capitalism, and ecocide are a trinity of nightmare and won't stop unless we we confront the system that perpetuates them, and all the examples of armed resistances have huge blind spots, like they want us to eat our babies with polar bear mind for the sake of population, or they're homophobic, or they execute hundreds of "bad guys," and, I 've come to see that this trinity is even bigger to include every branch of suffering on the human tree, and, in my heart I know the roots are greed, hate, and delusion, and we can hack at the branches until the cows come home, but if we can't engage the roots, it will make no difference, and no resistance has made a difference, as the proof is in this very moment, as that resistance has lead to this resistance, what the hell is a guy to do when he can't even strike at his own roots of greed, hate, and delusion, how will a guy strike at the roots of greed, hate, and delusion for all beings? But yeah, I'm okay."

Eventually, all of that did come out, but it was a slow drizzle over dinner, walks, and some softening. That was his first instruction to me when I came to him from the Deshimaru tradition: Soften. Open the hand that is a clenched fist.

Here are some new instructions and a question from Kosho Zenrei:

1. Stop studying things I can intellectually grasp for awhile. Instead, read Dogen, the Lankavatara, and The Denkoroku.

2. Get out of here (top of forehead) and get into there (everything below my chin) by planting food and doing calligraphy and practicing tea.

3. Stop wearing my lay robes to all affairs to put a disturbance in the force.

and the question: What do you intend to do with ordination?

He told me about when he was at Green Gulch, some 20 years ago, and how really enjoyed just living his life here. He told me to go back and just be the farmer.

I look forward to this. Planting a 1/2 acre today with the most beautiful people I've ever worked with.

Can I complete this moment?


  1. No, I don't think you can.

    To carry yourself forward and experience myriad things is delusion, remember?

    This moment completes itself.

    It's been sad for me to read your blog over the last few weeks - I ache for the pain you're in. There was a moment for me when "saving all beings" went from sounding like a good idea that I was happy to sign up for, to becoming something that my whole being was completely committed to. I didn't do it - something sort of *whooshed* up my chest and exploded. It was no longer a vow I had taken, but a vow that had taken me. And my first response was to become really petulant: "Fine, then. I get how my actions expand outward and theoretically understand about saving all humans. And let's not even think about the realms I can't see. But what about the animals, anyway? How the fuck am I supposed to save the mice?" It was just so huge, so unthinkably unachievable.

    At BZC instead of "save all beings" they chant, "Beings are numberless; I vow to awaken with them." For me this creates a lot less separation, de-emphasizes my tendency to think that somehow it's me, me all on my own, that has to save all beings, and has to do it right now. This lifetime. When Sumedha saw the Buddha Dipankara and vowed to become a Buddha, it took 5+ kalpas for that lifestream to become Shakyamuni, and he still hasn't liberated us all from suffering. This is something we do together, over the very long haul. It's not something we do to others, or even to ourselves. "The heart of the teaching is a practicing buddha who does not seek to become a buddha." But is nonetheless totally immersed in the intention.

    Please be gentle with yourself. Let yourself be the beautiful being that you are, where you are right now, doing what you're doing.

  2. The chant we use says "All beings, one body; I vow to save them." I believe that means "I vow to save myself," that is, to work toward my own awareness. Then the last line is "buddha's way is unsurpassed, I vow to embody it fully." so, to be fully alive and awake. I am afraid this is somewhat intellectual, but there you are.
    D grandma