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Showing posts from December, 2016

My Bowl Can't Hold A 401k

The urge to participate in capitalism arose one day; I think it was fall, dying leaves falling to the ground and all of us monks trying to corral them onto muddy paths. They make a nice mud stifling mat for our paths at Tassajara.
My inlaws have an aging parent who lives in a retirement facility and needs support from many of the kids. I thought of how hard that might be, and how it’s unlikely I’ll be able to help my parents in that way.
It brought two questions to the foreground: Who do I think will take care of me when I’m 90 and what will I offer my parents when they’re 90?
Cue up this image: Me in a dentist chair getting a twice root canaled tooth with a yearlong abscess finally extracted. The dentist worked up a sweat, as the tooth broke into 4 pieces. What could I do in that moment to help him? Well, I tried to be as still and “cool” as possible. I silently recited the Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo for protecting life. And I tried to talk my tooth into letting go while it felt like …

Milk Squirts Out of ShiShi Bodai and Beyonce Gets Up Dancing

I’ve a got a new lease on sesshin. Since we have a baby now, Lauren and Calliope leave Tassajara for the sesshins. My teacher suggested this, it’s what she did when she had children living here. It’s great for the three of us. Lauren doesn’t feel isolated out of the schedule, Calliope doesn’t have to interpret all our silent eyes cast down, and I’ve been getting to sit sesshin in whole hearted fashion. I feel young again!
We sat two sesshin this practice period, a 9 day and 7 day Rohatsu. Rohatsu is the celebration of Buddha’s enlightenment and most Zen temples sit from December 1st to December 8th. To think we’re taking our seats with thousands of others all over the world!
Our first 9 day was really “good” for me. It’s hard to talk about sesshin in conventional terms. I think they’re all good, eventually, when time has passed or I hold them as concept, like “Running is good for you” while acknowledging sometimes I have a good run and sometimes I have a bad run, get injured maybe. But…

I offer what I have, I offer what I don't have

As soon as we stepped up to the Zendo I realized I was empty handed. No flowers to offer. I whispered to my teacher. Should I go back? She said let’s mime it. Okay I said and continued to follow her. She said, no, really mime it, raising her hands as if she had the bowl of flowers. So I brought my hands up ceremoniously, nothing but empty emptiness between my fingers.
As I walked in the ino smrked. Though half of me wanted to smile, a healthy sense of embarrassment kept me deported. At the altar my teacher reached into my empty hands and offered invisible flower petals to the Buddha.

 Dogen wrote about flowers of emptiness. I offer what I have and I offer what I don’t have. It’s all offered.

SF Chronicle Features: Kogen the Dreg Slurper

Huangbo said to the assembly, "You people are all slurpers of dregs. If you travel like this, where will you have today? Do you know that in all of China there are no teachers of Chan?" At that point a monk came forward and said, "What about those who guide followers and lead groups in various places?" Huangbo said, "I don't say there's no Chan, just that there are no teachers."

I'm no teacher.
I was recently interviewed for the SF Chronicle and almost died upon reading it. I was quoted twice and what was quoted were the dregs of what I stole from teachers or one writer in particular, Colleen Morton Busch.  She wrote on page 104 of her book Fire Monks something about non attachment and when interviewed I regurgitated some version of her metaphor and didn't cite her. Nor did I cite Suzuki Roshi or Seung Sahn when talking about Don't Know mind or Beginners Mind. This all passed for personal insight and was published.  How did this happe…