I see Manjushri smile when I stay in the zendo during kinhin, instead of sneaking to my room for a sip of coffee. Jizo shakes his shakujo to ward off ghosts, mountain lions, and , my biggest fear, skunks on my dark fog ridden walk to make tea for the abbess in the morning. Ida Sonten stands straight and armored, his eye on the horizon for anyone who might disrupt our way seeking.
Yup, I'm one of those Buddhists, who's chanting like "that" because I think it might help.
Help what? The situation of course! Zen Master Baoche does fan himself, does he not?
I sit because we're Buddha and that's what Buddha's do, even if they don't need to, but because it's a magnet for suffering beings who might benefit from the illusion.
I follow the precepts because they're heavenly all by themselves. When I follow them they help me and all beings equally. Mostly, they save you from me.
On the Reddit Zen forum, I seem to be a minority. Those guys are salty in the not-Zen school, quick to sense a gaining mind or a reification of self or a substantialization of enlightenment. I'm with them on that, too- I don't think prayer, belief, magic, or cosmic Bodhisattvas, hidden in their sambogakaya bodies, are "zen." Of course not. Not even zen is zen. Not even my hands under the dirt searching for potatoes are zen.
Practicing like this may look like searching for the eternal ice cream like a good boy. But what if you like being a good boy and you love ice cream so much you don't even care if it's eternal? Ice cream is ice cream and I look good in a boy scout uniform.
So here I am in this phenomenal expression of a human who prays each morning during the nine prostrations, Please Manjushri help me cut off delusion, please Samanthabhadra help me respond appropriately, please Avalokitsvara help me practice compassion.
And this phenomenal expression is an illusion, as good as the phenomenal expression of "secular" or "Zen" (the "true" kind), or "Jesuit." All these horses are running in place!
So, I'm silly. What could go wrong? I think to change this late in the game might be too challenging; I'm starting to get familiar with this phenomenal expression. It's starting to slow down so I can get a good look. Might as well amp up the delusion. Dogen excused a monk eating meat to feed the demons that climbed all over him. Metta practice comes from monks who were terrified of ghosts and tigers.
What else is the self for if not risk?
Through dreams come faith and direction. One time, I was running from gunshots in New Orleans. I ran to the top of a building. The gunshots came closer and I heard bullets tearing through flesh. I opened the window; a screen! I thrust my finger through it and tore it open, jumped, but fell into another room. Calmer now, I opened another window, took out the screen, and gently dropped about thirty feet into a backyard garden. I hid under giant tropic elephant ears, just like the ones that grew at my dad's house before the storm. I heard a baby and saw a beautiful woman in a white dress holding her. I climbed out, the baby vanished and the woman had become old and looked like someone from Green Gluch, just gray hair and a hooded sweatshirt. She told me she was a street Bodhisattva. I said like, Guan Yin? and she said, yes, I'm Kannon. I followed her into her house. She turned into an older black man smoking a cigarette, and finally a little black girl dressed for school with a pink backpack, the smoke from the mans cigarette still swirling behind her glasses. She showed me to the front door and stapled to it was a "Street Bodhisattva" flyer with little phone number tabs you could take. I took one and walked toward the bridge. I turned around and saw her home: a huge four story house wrapped with black garbage bags that billowed in the wind, a purple haze New Orleans sunset in the background.
I don't have a phone, so I pray.