Thursday, October 24, 2013

Night Dreams and Daymares

The dying Buddha in sleeping lion pose, the posture of dream yoga. 

I'm going to tell you four stories:

Last Sunday I was training our practice period crew to take care of the farm stand. The farm manager was away so I went in early and made a check list of the farm stand transmission. I also made a quick work list, as 6 students would be joining us for Sunday chores. Things went smoothly, aside from my awkward double and triple checking of directions I had given. Everything was moving right on time; the students had to be finished setting up by 10am so they could attend the dharma talk. After we loaded the food, scales, and table clothes, we swung around to transfer baskets from Boxy, our big market truck, to Babe, our little blue farm truck. Boxy wasn't at the office, so I told the students not worry, go ahead to the farm stand and I'd be back with Boxy, who I thought would be down on the farm. I checked the packing shed, no Boxy. I checked the kitchen garden, no Boxy. I checked with the maintenance crew to see if they moved the truck, no Boxy. I checked with the farm elder, no Boxy. I checked the resident parking lot, no Boxy. I checked the outer parking lot, no boxy! I checked Spring Valley, where most of our teachers live tucked far away from the eyes of eager students and curious public, and there Boxy was, parked on a road that goes up the mountain!

I was sitting at a desk in a lobby. My wife was doing scary amounts of drugs, shooting them into her hand with a needle. Later that night, we were at her teacher's house in Spring Valley. I told her teacher that I was worried, her teacher pointed out that my wife sat in the kitchen, continuing her abuse. Her teacher encouraged me to help her; I approached. My wife clawed at me. I said, Lauren, I love you. She responded, Lauren get away! I said, my name's not Lauren! She chased after me, calling me Reirin, her dharma sister, and a senior priest who married us about 3 years ago. I screamed my name is not Reirin!

I went for a run early after Zazen and service. I got to the compost yard which lies on the edge of our farm fence. Three doe and a coyote stood together. I ran by. The fog, or rather the thick, grey, low lying cloud, obscured everything in sight, I could have been anywhere; in college at Penn State Harrisburg, running before a day of student teaching; in New Orleans, after one of those hot Halloween nights in a cold street; or in Alaska, moving from sea level to 3,000 feet with sled dogs. When I got half way up the mountain, the sky cleared and fog lay below me! It was as clear as oil on water, pure dharmakaya beyond the mud of samsara! The sun rose over San Francisco, the moon hung over the ocean behind me. Mount Tamalpais was bathed in a luminous orange glow. Three big coyotes with healthy bushy tails cut the trail in front of me and zig zagged ahead as I trotted and listened to a recording of Genjo Koan.

I was sitting in seiza with my hands in gassho. Another monk sat next to me. We were awaiting our server in the zendo, our oryoki bowls laid out neatly in front of us. When I parted my hands, popcorn popped into our mouths and all over our robes! The Ino scolded us and we giggled. As soon as she looked away, I continued to shower us in popcorn!

Two of these stories occurred during "waking" life and two occurred in my "dreaming" life. What I'd like to investigate is how all phenomena, arising during day or night, arises as a dream, a mystery of causes and conditions, and is truly the absence of the dream and the causes and conditions.

I dream almost every night. I wake up and bare witness to objects which seem external, but I'm convinced they are completely projected by mind; our bed, the moonlight, the paintings. I'm not sure about it, but it's a hunch! Things appear as amazing or not so amazing! This room, for example; what is the periphery? Things can seem 3 dimensional if I look for that dimension; things can seem very flat, like a paper shoji screen if I look for the flatness. And of course, everything I'm looking at is actually the absence of what I think I see. It's completely liberated from my projection.

What's interesting about dreams during sleeping life is that I hardly ever awake and feel guilty about what "I've done" or seek to right any injustice I witnessed. I don't hold any grudges. And yet, I often have nightmares that wake me up very early in the morning: my chest tightens, my breath becomes heavy with fear coursing through my body, and I struggle to stay in the dream, which is the third phase of practicing dream yoga, facing your nightmares. However, about an hour after the nightmare, it becomes more and more difficult to recall.  And its effects were physiologically palpable.

Story number one was an actual event! The physiological effects were similar to that of a nightmare. As I raced around on my bicycle, my heart pounded and I became angry. The difference was that it took me at least six to twelve hours to let the grating frustration go. I blamed people and wanted to tell them about what they did to me. But it occurred to me that just as people's eyes tend to glaze over when I drone on about my night dreams, maybe they don't need to hear about my day dreams either; maybe it didn't really happen the way it appeared to happen.

Recognizing a nightmare or daymare for it's illusory nature is not enough if they appear to exist independent of our own mind. I like when the fith and sixth precepts, not intoxicating self or other and not praising oneself at the expense of other, translate as "proceed clearly" and "see the perfection." Seeing clearly is acknowledging our imputation of this moment; seeing the perfection is acknowledging how this moment and what we see is free from our imputation. This is like an eyeball seeing an eyeball, luminous awareness of awareness.

In the Buddhist dream yoga tradition, sleeping, dreaming, and waking is a microcosm of dying, bardo, and rebirth. Lucid dreaming is breaking the habit energy of how we react to events, enlightened living is breaking the habit energy of how we react to events. But being lucid or being enlightened is not enough. The precepts wrap us in Bodhisattva armor, complete with phenomena-vision goggles- goggles that encourage us to keep looking to the three natures of all objects,feelings, and thoughts. When we vow every morning to see beyond form and emptiness, and when we take the sleeping lion's pose every night, gathering light at our heart and setting the intention to see the dream and practice the precepts, we turn our whole life into a practice life.

With this we may still be sleepwalkers, but without this we might not even know we are asleep.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Vote For Liberation!

Marijuana isn't actually marijuana and it doesn't matter if it's legalized or not. That's not what we're talking about. 

We're talking about liberation. 

It reminds me of bubble gum in schools. One day, our dean said to give a detention to anyone chewing gum. By the end of the first week, I had issued 50 detentions! The other teachers had done the same to include about 250 students. 

The students comradely reveled in their sentences, meanwhile the bubble gum market shot through the roof! We thought we could sweat the small stuff, and that's the same argument as targeting the gateway drug. By sweating the small stuff you create a culture around small stuff. The untucked shirt is a gateway to poor posture which is gateway to chewing gum which is a gateway to talking back which is a gateway to failure is the way that logic works. Despite the karmic randomness we would witness everyday, we really believed this. 

Eventually bubble gum became boring and a non issue. 

Sometimes this is an effective way to relate to each other. We make a big deal about marijuana or bubble gum or Buddha's Birthday, but all these things are illusion. We can try and study the mystery of these illusions and pin down the causes and conditions, like historical relevance or comparative analysis, but it doesn't even come close to the reality that these illusions are free from illusion and the mystery from which they arose. 

I don't care if they legalize marijuana, or if they don't. I don't care if they make alcohol illegal. I am a little more interested in the huge prison complexes that are privately owned, trying to add more beds. Something tells me  that as long as there are these huge prisons, they will try and fill them. Something tells me that those who want to use marijuana for medicinal use will use it for medicinal use. Something tells me those that want to use marijuana for fun will use it for fun. 

But we're not talking about marijuana. We're talking about the absence of the illusion and the mystery of what marijuana is. What will take the place of marijuana? Who will become the next marginalized group? 

Personally, in New Orleans, Austin, and to even larger degree Northern California, marijuana has become a non issue. One time a police officer showed up at my father's house in Uptown NOLA and asked me if I had seen any signs of drugs, and I said well I smell pot all the time, and he laughed at me, holding up a little silver foil. He said he was interested in "real" stuff.  

Of course, I don't know what the implications are for minorities in those places if the police would be more interested in New Orleans if you were black. From the sidelines of Mardi Gras, I'd venture to say that cops aren't interested in marijuana, even if your purple, green, or golden. 

That doesn't stop them from moving on to other items which might get a young black male arrested, like a "weapon" (knife? I carry a knife everyday as a farmer) or having a nice car in a bad neighborhood or just having dreadlocks. 

Marijuana isn't the problem and legalizing it isn't the solution. My friend Nathan at Dangerous Harvests makes some great points about how marijuana factors in to the industrial prison business, but I feel like these are short term (good for 50 years?) at best.  

I think the problem is who is it that makes it illegal and who is it that will lock you up? How do we legalize or ilegalize...I just made the word up...illegalize the one who is trying legalize or illegalize? 

I like what Suzuki Roshi said: Give your students a large field. Observe, bare witness. The appropriate response seems to be a combination of questioning the dream like facade of this issue, and if your find your self in a voting booth, always vote for liberation. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Cellos and Brass

If someone says you're arrogant, how could you argue without arrogance?

At the end of the season, apprentices and staff shared first impressions of each other. Dangerous conversation, but a sort I look forward to- here's the fruit of being elbow to elbow for six months or a year...a little truth from someone who loves you. This is the sangha.

I'm arrogant!


The only thing that feels right is to bow, head to floor, and hold the twisted stomach. Of course I didn't know!

But everything has two sides, one side arrogant, one side confident. Other's might find they're aware, but critical, contemplative but withdrawn, outgoing but not reflective enough.

Cellos and brass, some of us are a lot of that sad drone of a cello, some of us are that celebratory blast of a trombone.

When I speak, I tend to speak too much, say, overfilling the tea cup. Too much brass.

I'm equal parts sorry and content. There's no way of shaking this skin bag off. Finding out I'm arrogant is like realizing that I've been using a hammer to harvest lettuce, or make my bed, or set the table, and that I don't have to keep doing that.

Last night I had my cards read by a good witch. She pulled the devil, the 4 of swords, and the ace of wands.

The devil card depicted a goat with a pentagram on it's head, hooves aflame. It represented addictive and behavioral patterns.

The 4 of swords card depicted a lamb curled up with a nova type star on his forehead. It represented clarity and concentration.

The ace of wands card was tree branch emanating light. It represented new beginnings.

How Zen is that?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Bury His Heart In Your Heart.

One of our Abbots was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. There is no stage 5, he said. He gave a dharma talk last night and sang Blind Lemon Jefferson's words:

Feelin funny in my mind lord I believe I'm fixin to die
Oh funny in my mind I believe I'm fixin' to
I don't mind dying but I sure hate to leave my children crying

He's a lot of things to a lot of people, but I know him like this: I was standing at work circle and this mountain of a monk asked to see my harvest knife. What does this abbot want to see my harvest knife for? I hand it to him; it's caked with clay and mud, the edge rusting just over night from being put away wet. He hands it back, says nothing. Next week, he shows up at work circle with two brand new steel brushes. End of story: my harvest knife is clean and sharp, 7 days a week. He never said anything about it to me. I didn't even have to try, I just knew what he meant. 

Despite his pain and diagnosis, he'll continue to attend to Zen Center as he can, for as long as he can (3 months to 1 year). He said he was grateful for it all and that the practice of Zen would carry him through to the last moments of consciousness. 

He sat there like a mountain last night, big smile, like he swallowed the moon. He told us of his walk with Shodo Spring through South Dakota at Pine Ridge with the Lakota people. He remembered harvesting wheat when he was a boy. He reminded us of Dogen's poem: What can we liken the world to?Dew drops reflecting the moon, shaken of the beak of a heron.