2018-06-20

Jun 21 - 27

Summer, week 1
"Attention or awareness is the secret of life, and the heart of practice." --Joko Beck
Saturday Zen: Sat Jun 23, 10:00 - 11:45am, room 24
Community UU, 468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY.
Practice to be led Terry Truta.

Morning Zen is cancelled on Tue Jun 19 through Mon Jun 25. Morning Zen is expected to resume on Tue Jun 26 . Mon-Fri, 6:00 - 7:15am -- Basement Zendo. See HERE.

Chants
For Thu Jun 21 - Wed Jun 27:
  • Shorter Precepts Recitation, p. 62
  • The Four Commitments, p. 65
  • Fourfold Commitment to Racial and Social Justice, p. 66
Opening and Closing for Jun 14 - Jul 11:
  • Opening: Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo, p. 7
  • Closing: A Blessing for the Journey, p. 81
See Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed. and
BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule

Reading this week:
Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special, Ch. 24: "Attention Means Attention," pp. 168-172.

Raven Tale: Right Thinking
Read your thoughts the way you read a novel.
When Aragonese and Castillano
First turned the pages of Europe's first novel,
How did they understand what it was,
What these words were up to?
An epic, only not in verse.
A romance, only longer, and cohesive.
Like a history, then, only intimate.
And not historical.
How did they make sense of it?
Cervantes gave them Sancho Panza,
Illiterate, to show them how to read
the thing:
     Not rejecting the master's delusions.
     Not sharing them.
     Along for the ride.

Raven 59: Patience

Every tradition has some variations within it which become subjects for argument. In Japanese Buddhism there's dispute over whether bushes and grasses have Buddha-nature and are on the path to nirvana. I don't see what the fuss is about.

Case
Gray Wolf attended meetings sporadically, and when she came she usually sat silent during the question period. However, she came to hear Brown Bear and spoke up, saying, "We dedicate our sutras to the enlightenment of bushes and grasses. This doesn't seem so likely somehow."
Brown Bear chuckled and said, "They are very patient."
Verse
Displayed everywhere.
A frozen pond, a car horn.
Buzzing flies, mountains in the distance.
The grass's breakneck absorption of soil nutrients,
Its headlong photosynthesizing.
A customer's raised volume and pitch to a clerk
Saying "slow" and "unacceptable."
The universe's patience
Is displayed everywhere.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Raven 58

2018-06-14

Jun 14 - 20

Spring, week 13
"The place of resting -- the arms of God, if you will -- is simply here and now: seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting our life as it is." --Joko Beck
Saturday Zen: Sat Jun 16, 10:00 - 11:45am, room 24
Community UU, 468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY.
Practice to be led Meredith Garmon

Morning Zen is cancelled on Tue Jun 19 through Mon Jun 25. Morning Zen is expected to resume on Tue Jun 26 . Mon-Fri, 6:00 - 7:15am -- Basement Zendo. See HERE.

Chants
For Thu Jun 14 - Wed Jun 20:
  • Song of the Jeweled-Mirror Samadhi, p. 25
  • The Way of Tenderness, p. 66
Opening and Closing for Jun 14 - Jul 11:
  • Opening: Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo, p. 7
  • Closing: A Blessing for the Journey, p. 81
See Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed. and
BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule

Reading this week:
Primary Reading: Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special, Ch. 23: "Coming to Our Senses," pp. 158-167.
Optional Secondary Reading: Thich Nhat Hanh, Old Path White Clouds, Ch. 4: "The Wounded Swan," pp. 27-34.

Raven Tale: Right Thinking
Read your thoughts the way you read a novel.
When Aragonese and Castillano
First turned the pages of Europe's first novel,
How did they understand what it was,
What these words were up to?
An epic, only not in verse.
A romance, only longer, and cohesive.
Like a history, then, only intimate.
And not historical.
How did they make sense of it?
Cervantes gave them Sancho Panza,
Illiterate, to show them how to read
the thing:
     Not rejecting the master's delusions.
     Not sharing them.
     Along for the ride.

Raven 58: Right Thinking

Thoughts go on and on. It's what thoughts do. Is that a problem? Just watch them come and go.

Case
Later in the same meeting, Owl then asked another question: "Right Thinking comes immediately after Right Views. I have problems with my thinking. What is Right Thinking?"
Brown Bear said, "The point."
Owl said, "My thoughts go on and on."
Brown Bear asked, "Is that your focus?"
Owl blinked and said nothing.
Verse
Read your thoughts the way you read a novel.
When Aragonese and Castillano
First turned the pages of Europe's first novel,
How did they understand what it was,
What these words were up to?
An epic, only not in verse.
A romance, only longer, and cohesive.
Like a history, then, only intimate.
And not historical.
How did they make sense of it?
Cervantes gave them Sancho Panza,
Illiterate, to show them how to read
the thing:
     Not rejecting the master's delusions.
     Not sharing them.
     Along for the ride.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Raven 57

2018-06-06

Raven 57: Right Views

Urgency, dear friends. Where is your urgency? Do you have clarity on what it is?

Right view -- which might also be expressed as "seeing clearly" -- is the first on the eightfold path. Since the path is infinitely circular, it's also the 9th, the 17th, the 25th, etc. And what is the Right View? Urgency. Connection and urgency! We haven't a moment to spare, nor a single drop of love we can fail to receive or to offer. Fly, fly, beloveds. Fly toward the holy as if you were being chased by a bear -- a bear with a questioning owl on its head.

Case
Owl then spoke up and asked, "What is the essential point of the Eightfold Path?"
Brown Bear said, "It goes around and around."
Owl drew back her head and exclaimed, "Really? I thought it was a linear path. And I've always thought there should be a ninth step -- that Right Realization should come after Right Zazen."
Brown Bear said, "Right Views come after Right Zazen."
Owl said, "Then where does Right Realization come in?"
Brown Bear said, "Right Views! Right Views!"
Owl said, "What are Right Views?"
Brown Bear said, "We're in it together, and we don't have much time."
Verse
Mayflies live a day --
Or less, if accident or predator befalls.
Not much time.
Enough.
A bristlecone pine in California is 5,067 years old.
Not much time.
Enough.
A stand of aspen in Utah has a shared root system 80,000 years old.
Not much time.
Enough.
A step is born as a foot lifts from the ground,
A breath as the lungs begin to pull.
A second or so later the step dies back into the earth,
The breath expires.
Not much time.
Enough.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Raven 56

2018-06-01

May 31 - Jun 6

Spring, week 11
"We may develop ill health, we may lose what little money we have; yet there is no problem. Zen practice isn't about adjusting to the problem. It is seeing that there isn't any." --Joko Beck
Saturday Zen: Sat May 26, 10:00 - 11:45am, room 24
Community UU, 468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY.
Practice to be led Meredith Garmon

Morning Zen. Mon-Fri, 6:00 - 7:15am -- Basement Zendo. See HERE.

Chants
For Thu May 31 - Wed Jun 6:
  • Bodhisattva's Vow, p. 22
  • Harmony of Relative and Absolute, p. 23
  • Fulfilling the Buddha Way, p. 40
Opening and Closing for May 17 - Jun 13:
  • Opening:The Five Remembrances, p. 6
  • Closing: Liberation from All Obstruction, p. 75 + Four Bodhisattva Vows, p. 11
See Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed. and
BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule

Reading this week:
Primary Reading: Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special, Ch. 21: "The Castle and the Moat," pp. 138-146.
Optional Secondary Reading: Thich Nhat Hanh, Old Path White Clouds, Ch. 2: "Tending Water Buffaloes," pp. 13-19.

Raven Tale: The Eightfold Path
To know it is fleeting
To have this in heart-mind
Colors love piquant and precious
Dissipates the fog of eternity
Touches the real.
To know it is fleeting.

2018-05-29

Raven 56: The Eightfold Path

Is attachment really the root of suffering? Apparently, Buddha said so, but it's buried in a subordinate clause at the end of an obscure sutra:
"When a bhikku practices restraint in the six bases of contact, and having understood that attachment is the root of suffering, is without attachment, liberated by the destruction of attachment, it is not possible that he would direct his body or arouse his mind towards any object of attachment."(Sunakkhatta Sutta: Majjhima Nikaya 105).
Though attachment may be the source of some suffering, it's clear Buddha recognized that attachment is not the source of all suffering. The central Buddhist text, the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta (Samyutta Nikaya 56.11), says that suffering comes from birth, aging, illness, death, union with what is displeasing, separation from what is pleasing, and not getting what one wants. No matter how nonattached you get, there's still going to be old age, sickness, and death. Even total nonattachment doesn't end all suffering. And, anyway, we need our attachments. As Brown Bear says, "What would you be without attachments?"

The trick is to have your attachments, but hold them lightly. Let your attachments be -- to put it in the language of Nonviolent Communication -- the requests that you make of life rather than the demands.

What is the eightfold path? Clear seeing/thinking, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. Is nonattachment implicit in this? Only insofar as we are prone to get attached to wrong views, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, or concentration.

Case
Spring finally came, and Raven entertained her old teacher, Brown Bear Roshi, and invited her to speak. After the talk, Badger came forward and asked, "How can I get rid of my passions?"
Brown Bear said, "What would you be without passions?"
Badger said, "Maybe I should reword that. How can I get rid of my attachments?"
Brown Bear said, "What would you be without attachments?"
Badger said, "Isn't nonattachment one of our ideals?"
Brown Bear asked, "Where do you find it taught?"
Badger said, "Isn't it implicit in the Eightfold Path of the Buddha?"
Brown Bear said, "Cling to that Path."
Raven commented, "I'm clinging to Brown Bear."
Verse
"All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature of change. There is no way to escape being separated from them." (Upajjhatthana Sutta: Anguttara Nikaya 5.57)

To know it is fleeting
To have this in heart-mind
Colors love piquant and precious
Dissipates the fog of eternity
Touches the real.
To know it is fleeting.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Raven 55

2018-05-24

May 24 - 30

Spring, week 10
"When we come down to it, however, the work of an ice cube is to melt. When we're still frozen solid, we think that our work is to go around slamming other ice cubes or being slammed by them. In such a life, no one ever really meets another." --Joko Beck
Saturday Zen: Sat May 26, 10:00 - 11:45am, room 24
Community UU, 468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY.
Practice to be led Meredith Garmon

Morning Zen. Mon-Fri, 6:00 - 7:15am -- Basement Zendo. See HERE.

Chants
For Thu May 24 - Wed May 30:
  • Days Like Lightning, p. 61
  • Heart Sutra, p. 14
Opening and Closing for May 17 - Jun 13:
  • Opening:The Five Remembrances, p. 6
  • Closing: Liberation from All Obstruction, p. 75 + Four Bodhisattva Vows, p. 11
See Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed. and
BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule

Reading this week:
Primary Reading: Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special, Ch. 20: "Melting Ice Cubes," pp. 132-137.
Optional Secondary Reading: Thich Nhat Hanh, Old Path White Clouds, Ch. 1: "Walking Just to Walk," pp. 3-12.

Raven Tale: Panic and Fear
Now the red leaves
Now the snow
Now the dogwood blossom
Always now and present
Always now and gone
The old one resting on a park bench
Sips from her cup

Raven 55: Panic and Fear

Context is the practice and is not the practice. In the world but not of the world? What is your focus?

Case
Porcupine came again to Raven for a special interview and said, "A week ago I found that everything was completely open and clear to the very bottom, but last night I woke up for no reason and was filled with fear and panic. What's going on?"
Raven said, "A week ago you realized that everything is completely open and clear to the very bottom, and last night you woke up filled with fear and panic."
Porcupine hung his head and asked, "What should I do?"
Raven said, "The context is not the practice."
Porcupine thought for a moment and said, "I should think the context is the practice."
Raven bobbed her head. "It is, it is, make no mistake."
"You just said it isn't," Porcupine protested.
Raven said, "The context is the practice because your body and mind are engaged, not to mention cedars and the wind. It is not the practice because it is not your focus."
Verse
Now the red leaves
Now the snow
Now the dogwood blossom
Always now and present
Always now and gone
The old one resting on a park bench
Sips from her cup.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Raven 54

2018-05-16

May 17 - 23

Spring, week 9
"Everything in our life that disappoints us is a kind friend." --Joko Beck
Saturday Zen: Sat May 19, 10:00 - 11:45am, room 24
Community UU, 468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY.
Practice to be led Meredith Garmon

Morning Zen. Mon-Fri, 6:00 - 7:15am -- Basement Zendo. See HERE.

Chants
For Thu May 17 - Wed May 23:
  • Loving-Kindness Sutra, p. 27
  • Guidepost for Silent Illumination, p. 38
  • The Many and The One, p. 60
  • Mind Like the Moon, p. 60
Opening and Closing for May 17 - Jun 13:
  • Opening: The Five Remembrances, p. 6
  • Closing: Liberation from All Obstruction, p. 75 + Four Bodhisattva Vows, p. 11
See Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed. and
BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule

Reading this week: Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special, Chap 19: "The Icy Couch," pp. 122-131.

Raven Tale: Suffering
I saw a young larch shudder
and looked around to see
if there were some cause
as would bring it fear or hurt.
Seeing none, I said:
"It's some fluke of wind,"
As if suffering were not also a current of air.
I turned then back to the trail,
Each footfall on the dirt
Alike the last,
Mostly.

2018-05-12

Raven 54: Suffering

What do you do with the loveliness of snow when the cold brings such misery? (Or with the misery of cold when the snow is so lovely?) Winter is life. How many more will you see?

Case
Winter set in firmly, and frequent snowstorms prevented the community from meeting. One day was unseasonably warm, however, and a few members gathered for a day of zazen. In the question period, Owl said, "Many folks aren't surviving the winter, and I think all of us are reminded that we won't be here long. I'm not sure what my question is, but..." Her voice trailed off.
Raven said, "Maybe there isn't a question."
Mole spoke up and said, "I think there is. There's a lot of suffering in this forest. Folks are dying and leaving little ones with no one to care for them; folks get sick; they get killed and eaten. How does this fit the teaching of Buddha Macaw?"
Raven said, "She was concerned about the misery of suffering."
Mole asked, "Is there suffering without misery?"
Raven said, "Yours -- right now."
Mole was silent.
Owl asked, "So the teaching of the Buddha was really just to grin and bear it?"
Raven jumped up and down, chanting, "Getting old! Getting old!" and she gave a great croak.
Verse
I saw a young larch shudder
and looked around to see
if there were some cause
as would bring it fear or hurt.
Seeing none, I said:
"It's some fluke of wind,"
As if suffering were not also a current of air.
I turned then back to the trail,
Each footfall on the dirt
Alike the last,
Mostly.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Raven 53

2018-05-10

May 10 - 16

Spring, week 8
"We demolish the false structures of our lives by labeling our thoughts, by saying for the five hundredth time, 'Having a thought that such-and-such will happen.' When we've said it five hundred time, we see it for what it is. It's just empty energy spinning out of our conditioning, with no reality whatsoever." --Joko Beck
Saturday Zen: Sat May 12, 10:00 - 11:45am, room 24
Community UU, 468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY.
Practice to be led Meredith Garmon

Morning Zen. Mon-Fri, 6:00 - 7:15am -- Basement Zendo. See HERE.

Chants
For Thu May 10 - Wed May 16:
  • Facing Everything, p. 36
  • Misunderstanding of Many Lifetimes, p. 37
  • Fukanzazengi, p. 45
  • Menju, p. 50
Opening and Closing for May:
  • Opening: Do Your Best, p. 20
  • Closing: Liberation from All Obstruction, p. 75 + Four Bodhisattva Vows, p. 11
See Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed. and
BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule

Reading this week: Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special, Chap 18: "Experiences and Experiencing," pp. 118-121.

Raven Tale: The Mind
Dogen didn't, couldn't, say
His cranial pitcher held
100 billion neurons, more or less,
Sending neurotransmitter signals
to each other across
100 trillion synapses, more or less.
Still he said mind is not just this.
You are more than that.

Dogen spoke of the senses,
Could say a few things
about light and eyes
and sound and ears,
Yet nothing of the optic nerve's
or inner ear's workings,
Little of nerve endings,
and less of ceptions proprio-,
mechanore-, equilibrio-, thermo-, noci-, and intero-.
Add the flow through the senses
to the skullbound glop --
Still he said mind is not just this either.
You are more than that.

Dogen didn't, couldn't, say
Light bounced off the mountain
at 186,000 miles per second,
Still he told us
mind includes seeing,
includes light,
includes the mountain seen,
includes everything that made the mountain.
This signals-triggering-signals
Has nowhere to stop
Is to nowhere confined.

When all reality pours, as it does, into
Every rock, tree, skullbone
And pours unceasing back out again
Mind is nowhere to be found
Unless it is the whole shebang
Like beans.
Like tears on a train.

Raven 53: The Mind

"Mind is no other than mountains and rivers and the great, wide Earth, the sun and the moon and the stars." (Eihei Dogen)
Dogen (1200-1253) was a contemporary of Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). They each wrote voluminously -- more words than you would think it possible for a human hand to write with a quill before dying at about age 50. Aquinas became the most influential theologian in Catholic thought, and Dogen is a similar giant of Zen thought.

In 1953, Yamada Koun, then age 46, was on a crowded train in Japan reading a Zen book. He came across the Dogen line I've quoted. Yamada's description of the experience was later published in Three Pillars of Zen, (Philip Kapleau, editor): "I had read this before, but this time it impressed itself upon me so vividly that I was startled." He broke into tears with the realization that after eight years of zazen he had finally grasped what this statement meant.

So: what does it mean?

Case
One evening Owl said, "I've heard that the mind is the mountains, the rivers, and the great Blue Planet."
Raven said, "Right."
Owl continued, "And that the mind is neither tall nor short."
Raven said, "That, too."
Owl asked, "Then what is the mind?"
Raven said, "Beans."
Meredith's Verse
Dogen didn't, couldn't, say
His cranial pitcher held
100 billion neurons, more or less,
Sending neurotransmitter signals
to each other across
100 trillion synapses, more or less.
Still he said mind is not just this.
You are more than that.

Dogen spoke of the senses,
Could say a few things
about light and eyes
and sound and ears,
Yet nothing of the optic nerve's
or inner ear's workings,
Little of nerve endings,
and less of ceptions proprio-,
mechanore-, equilibrio-, thermo-, noci-, and intero-.
Add the flow through the senses
to the skullbound glop --
Still he said mind is not just this either.
You are more than that.

Dogen didn't, couldn't, say
Light bounced off the mountain
at 186,000 miles per second,
Still he told us
mind includes seeing,
includes light,
includes the mountain seen,
includes everything that made the mountain.
This signals-triggering-signals
Has nowhere to stop
Is to nowhere confined.

When all reality pours, as it does, into
Every rock, tree, skullbone
And pours unceasing back out again
Mind is nowhere to be found
Unless it is the whole shebang
Like beans.
Like tears on a train.
Graham's Verse
Indeed!
The MIND is Heaven,
Earth and
Human Beans.
I count myself amongst those beautiful Beans.
You and I are Raven the Bean Counter 2. Step up. Have a seat.
And eat your fill of all the
Tender Beans.
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon; Additional verse by Graham Hubbel
Raven 52

2018-05-04

May 3 - 9

Spring, week 7
"An enjoyable life includes heartache, disappointment, grief. When we stay with that awareness, for a second we begin to see, 'Oh, this is terrible -- and at the same time, it's really quite enjoyable.'" --Joko Beck
Saturday Zen: Sat May 5, 10:00 - 11:45am, room 24
Community UU, 468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY.
Practice to be led Meredith Garmon

Morning Zen. Mon-Fri, 6:00 - 7:15am -- Basement Zendo. See HERE.

Chants
For Thu May 3 - Wed May 9:
  • Song of the Grass-Roof Hermitage, p. 16
  • Heart Sutra, p. 14
Opening and Closing for May:
  • Opening: Do Your Best, p. 20
  • Closing: Liberation from All Obstruction, p. 75 + Four Bodhisattva Vows, p. 11
See Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed. and
BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule

Reading this week: Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special, Chap 17: "Preparing the Ground," pp. 113-117.

At Boundless Way Temple, 1030 Pleasant St, Worcester, MA:
  • Sat May 12, 9:00-17:00. "Buddhism 101." INFO HERE.
Raven Tale: Open and Clear
Open and clear
As silence
And the very bottom:
Silence, too.

Raven 52: Open and Clear

Sometimes in the midst of routine, or, at least, routine of care, sudden awareness comes. Cool. Not sufficient.

Case
Porcupine came to Raven for a special interview and said, "Last night when I was putting little Porky to bed, I suddenly realized that everything is completely open and clear to the very bottom.
Raven asked, "What about you?"
Porcupine was silent.
Verse
Open and clear
As silence
And the very bottom:
Silence, too.
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Raven 51