2018-01-17

Jan 18 - 24

Winter, week 5
"That's the problem with 'positive thinking' and affirmations: we can't keep them up forever. Such efforts are never the path to freedom. In truth, we are already free. Sisyphus was not a prisoner in Hades, living out eternal punishment. He was already free, because he was just doing what he was doing." --Joko Beck

"Paradoxically, with true freedom of mind one has no choice. The mind that is free is decided from the beginning. Imagine you are an official and are offered a bribe. If your mind is made up from the beginning, there is no possibility of doing anything but refuse, and you enjoy freedom of mind. If you feel a possibility of choosing, your mind is divided and disturbed, and that is not freedom." --Katsuki Sekida
Saturday Zen. Our next Zen service is Sat Jan 20, 10:00 - 11:45am, room 24
Community UU, 468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY.
Practice to be led by Meredith.

Chants for Thu Jan 18 - Wed Jan 24:
  • The Way I Must Enter, p. 80
  • Bodhisattva's Vow, p. 22
  • Compassionate Heart of Wisdom, p. 15
See Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed. and
BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule

Reading this week: Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special: "Sisyphus and the Burden of Life," pp. 17-23..

Questions. (1) "Hell lies not in pushing the rock, but in thinking about it, in creating ideas of hope and disappointment, in wondering if we will finally get the rock to stay at the top" (p. 18). What task or experience have you ever made into "hell" by adding judgments, ideas? (2) "If he [Sisyphus] pushes the rock a few thousand years, what may he finally realize? . . . Just to push the rock and to have abandoned hope that his life will be other than it is" (pp. 18-19). How is it helpful to abandon hope? (3) "If we are totally what we are, in every second, we begin to experience life as joy. . . . That does not mean there is no sadness, but the experience of sadness is exactly the joy" (pp. 20-21). How do you understand this?

At Boundless Way Temple, 1030 Pleasant St, Worcester, MA:
  • Coming and Going Sesshin, Tue Jan 2, 19:00 – Mon Jan 22, 12:00. During these three weeks, participants "come and go" -- select a day, a week-end, several days, a week, or more when you can partake of this "encounter of the heart" (sesshin). INFO HERE.
Meredith's Latest Koan Post: Blue Cliff Record #53: Baizhang and a Wild Duck: CLICK HERE
Beloved progenitors, deceased.
Friends, grown estranged.
The hour before that awful mistake.
Youth.
Last summer.
The spring before.
How did it ever fly away?
It was always gone, and is always here.
This cold comfort burns
And burns.

Blue Cliff Record 51, Book of Serenity 50

119
Blue Cliff Record (Hekiganroku, Biyan Lu) #51
Book of Serenity (Shoyoroku, Congrong Lu) #50
Xuefeng's "What Is This?"

Yuanwu's Preface
If you have the slightest choice of right and wrong,
you will fall into confusion of mind.
If you are not caught up in the ranks,
there will be no groping in the dark.
Tell me, which is advisable, letting go or holding fast?
At this point, if you deal in terms of concepts and remain attached to sophisticated thinking,
you are a ghost clinging to weeds and bushes.
Even if you become innocent of such vulgarity,
you are still thousands of miles from your homeland.
Do you understand? If not, just study the present koan. See the following.
Case
When Xuefeng was living in his hermitage, two monks came to pay their respects.
As Xuefeng saw them coming he pushed open the gate and, presenting himself before them, said, "What is this?"
The monks also said, "What is this?"
Xuefeng lowered his head and returned to his cottage.
Later the monks came to Yantou, who said, "Where are you from?"
The monks answered, "We have come from south of the Nanrei Mountains."
Yantou said, "Have you ever been to see Xuefeng?"
The monks said, "Yes, we have been to him."
Yantou said, "What did he say to you?"
The monks related the story, whereupon Yantou asked "Then what did Xuefeng say?"
A monk said, "He didn't say anything. He just lowered his head and went back inside."
Yantou said, "Alas! I regret that I did not tell him the last word when I was with him. [See GG13/BOS55] If I had done so, no one in the whole world could have pretended to outdo him."
At the end of the summer session the monks repeated the story and asked Yantou for his instruction.
Yantou said, "Why didn't you ask earlier?"
The monks said, "We have had a hard time struggling with this topic."
Yantou said, "Xuefeng came to life in the same way that I did, but he does not die in the same way that I do. If you want to know the last word, I'll tell you, simply -- This! This!"
Xuedou's Verse (Sekida trans)
The last word, let me tell you --
Light and darkness intermingled,
Living in the same way, you all know;
Dying in different ways -- beyond telling!
Absolutely beyond telling!
Buddha and Dharma only nod to themselves.
East, west, north, and south -- homeward let us go,
Lat at night, seeing the snow on the thousand peaks.

Blue Cliff Record 49, Book of Serenity 33

118
Blue Cliff Record (Hekiganroku, Biyan Lu) #49
Book of Serenity (Shoyoroku, Congrong Lu) #33
Sansheng's "The Golden Carp Out of the Net"

Yuanwu's Preface
Seven piercing and eight breaking through,
Seizing the drums and capturing the banners,
a hundred barriers and a thousand checkpoints,
watching the front and guarding the rear,
holding the tiger's head and securing its tail --
Evan all these are not comparable to the veran master's ability.
The ox-head disappearing, the horse-head appears --
That also is not a great wonder.
Tell me, what do you do when a man of transcendent experience comes?
See the following.
Case
Sansheng said to Xuefeng, "The golden carp is out of the net! Tell me, what will it feed on?"
Xuefeng said, "When you have got out of the net, I will tell you."
Sansheng said, "The renowned teacher of fifteen hundred monks cannot find even one word to say about this topic."
Xuefeng said, "I am the chief abbot and have much to attend to."
Xuedou's Verse (Sekida trans)
The golden carp comes out of the net!
Don't say it remains in the water still.
It shakes the heavens and moves the earth,
Swinging its fins, lashing its tail.
It blows like a whale, raising great waves;
Then the thunder sounds, and a cool breeze comes;
A cool breeze -- yes! a cool breeze comes.
Who in the whole universe knows this?

2018-01-16

Blue Cliff Record 22, Book of Serenity 24

117
Blue Cliff Record (Hekiganroku, Biyan Lu) #22
Book of Serenity (Shoyoroku, Congrong Lu) #24
Xuefeng's Poisonous Snake

Wansong's Preface
The carp of the Eastern Sea, the turtle-nosed snake of the South Mountain, Fuke's donkey brays,
Shiko's dog bays –
They do not fall into to the ordinary tracks, and do not wander into the beast kind.
Just tell me, whose way is this?
Case
Xuefeng, instructing the assembly, said, “There's a poisonous snake on the South Mountain [the location of Xuefeng's monastery]. All of you should look at it carefully!”
Changqing said, “Today in the Zen hall there are many people. They have lost their body and life.”
A monk told this to Xuansha, who said, “Only Elder Brother Changqing could say something like that. However, I wouldn't talk like that.”
The monk asked, “What then would you say, Master”?
Xuansha replied, “Why does it have to be 'the South Mountain'?”
Yunmen threw his staff in front of Seppô and acted frightened.
Hongzhi's Verse
Xuansha's excessive strength, Changqing's tiny courage:
The turtle-nose snake in the South Mountain is dead and useless.
When wind and clouds meet, a horny head emerges.
You now observe how Shôyô2 plays with it.
He plays with it – see the change in a flash of lightning.
On one hand he superbly sends back and summons;
On the other he grips and releases.
Whom shall I impart this matter now?
The cold mouth bites the people, and they do not feel any pain.

2018-01-08

Jan 11 - 17

Winter Week 4

Chants this week:
Great Doubt, p. 18
Song of Realizing the Day, p. 31
Unending Truth, p. 36

Practice: Sat Jan 13
10:00 - 11:45
Community UU, room 24
466 Rosedale Ave
White Plains

Reading: Charlotte Joko Beck, “Nothing Special”, chapter 2, ”The Cocoon of Pain”

2018-01-03

Jan 4 - 10

Winter, week 3
"We are rather like whirlpools in the river of life. Though for short periods it seems to be distinguishable as a separate event, the water in the whirlpools is just the river itself." --Joko Beck
Saturday Zen. Our next Zen service is Sat Jan 6, 10:00 - 11:45am, room 24
Community UU, 468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY.
Practice to be led by Meredith.

Chants for Thu Jan 4 - Wed Jan 10:
  • Observing the One Who Is Dim and Dull, p. 19
  • Heart Sutra, p. 14
See Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed. and
BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule

Reading this week: Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special: "Whirlpools and Stagnant Waters," pp. 3-9.

Questions. (1) Joko says, "I am uneasy with the growth of the Zen Center of San Diego. Too many seekers are looking for easy, painless solutions to their difficulties. I prefer a smaller center, limited to those who are ready and willing to do the work." What work are you ready and willing to do?
(2) Joko: "A whirlpool that puts up a dam around itself and shuts itself off from the river becomes stagnant and loses its vitality." What dam have you put up around yourself?

At Boundless Way Temple, 1030 Pleasant St, Worcester, MA:
  • Coming and Going Sesshin, Tue Jan 2, 19:00 – Mon Jan 22, 12:00. During these three weeks, participants "come and go" -- select a day, a week-end, several days, a week, or more when you can partake of this "encounter of the heart" (sesshin). INFO HERE.
Meredith's Latest Koan Post: Blue Cliff Record #67, and Book of Serenity #6: Mazu and the 100 Negations: CLICK HERE

Blue Cliff Record 5

116
Blue Cliff Record (Hekiganroku, Biyan Lu) #5
Xuefeng's "A Grain of Rice"

Case
Xuefeng addressed the assembly and said, "All the great world, if I pick it up with my fingertips, is found to be like a grain of rice. I throw it in front of your face, but you do not see it. Beat the drum, telling the monks to come out to work, and search for it."

2018-01-02

Blue Cliff Record 35

115
Blue Cliff Record (Hekiganroku, Biyan Lu) #35
Manjusri's "Threes and Threes"

Personnel
  • Touzi Datong (Tosu Daido, 819-914, 11th gen). Go to TOUZI D
  • An unnamed monk
Yuanwu's Preface
In distinguishing dragon from snake, jewel from stone, black from white, irresolute from decisive, if one does not have the clear eye of the mind and the amulet under the arm, one invited instant failure.
Just at this moment, if on'es vision and hearing are clear, and color and sound are truly cognized, tell me, is he black or white, crooked or straight?
The subtle difference -- how could you discern it?
Case
Manjusri asked Wu Cho, "Where have you recently come from?"
Wu Cho said, "From the south."
"How is Southern Buddhism faring?" asked Manjusri.
"The monks of the latter days of the Law observe the Buddha's precepts a little," Wu Cho answered.
"Are there many or few?"
"Here about three hundred, there around five hundred."
Then Wu Cho asked Manjusri, "How does Buddhism fare in your part of the world?"
Manjusri said, "The worldly and the holy are living together; dragons and snakes are mingled."
"Are there many or few?"
"The former threes and threes, the latter threes and threes."

Blue Cliff Record 79

114
Blue Cliff Record (Hekiganroku, Biyan Lu) #79
Touzi and "Every Voice Is the Buddha's Voice"

Personnel
  • Touzi Datong (Tosu Daido, 819-914, 11th gen). Go to TOUZI D
  • An unnamed monk
Yuanwu's Preface
The Great Way manifests itself naturally; it is bound by no fixed rules.
The teacher does not have to exert himself to bring his students under control.
Tell me, who has ever given such an example?
See the following?
Case
A monk said to Touzi, "It is said, 'Every voice is the Buddha's voice.' Is that true?
Touzi said, "Yes, it is true."
The monk said, "Master don't let me hear you breaking wind."
Touzi gave him a blow with his stick.
The monk asked again, "The sutra says, 'Rough words and soft words, both lead to the first principle.' Is that true?"
Touzi said, "Yes, it is true."
The monk said, "Master, may I call you a donkey?"
Touzi gave him a blow with his stick.
Xuedou's Verse (Sekida trans, with Cleary trans in italics
Touzi! Touzi! The wheel turns unchecked.
   Touzi, Touzi -- his wheen of potential's unhindered.
One shot, two victories! That blow, this blow!
   Releasing one, he gets two; same there, same here.
Pity him who mocks the tide:
   Pitiful the endless people playing in the tide
He will fall in it and die!
   Who in the end fall into the tide and die.
If he sudenly comes alive --
   If they suddenly came to life,
A hundred surging, roaring rivers!
   The hundred rivers would reverse their flow with a roar.

2017-12-29

Dec 28 - Jan 3

Winter, week 2
"If they could see that thoughts of killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, and lying all arise from the nature of mind, then their arising would be the same as their non-arising. At their source, they are calm. Why must they be cut off? As it is said, 'Do not fear the arising of thoughts: only be concerned lest your awareness of them be tardy.'" --Chinul
Saturday Zen. Our next Zen service is Sat Dec 30, 10:00 - 11:45am, room 24
Community UU, 468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY.
Practice to be led by Meredith.

Chants for Thu Dec 28 - Wed Jan 3:
  • Heart of True Entrusting, p. 28
See Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed. and
BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule

Reading this week: In Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed., pp. 28-30, and 58-59. ("Heart of True Entrusting" and "Secrets on Cultivating the Mind"
Starting Sat Jan 6, our book will be, Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special.

At Boundless Way Temple, 1030 Pleasant St, Worcester, MA:
  • Coming and Going Sesshin, Tue Jan 2, 19:00 – Mon Jan 22, 12:00. During these three weeks, participants "come and go" -- select a day, a week-end, several days, a week, or more when you can partake of this "encounter of the heart" (sesshin). INFO HERE.
Meredith's Latest Koan Post: Book of Serenity #67: The Wisdom in the Flower Garland Sutra: CLICK HERE

2017-12-16

Dec 21 - 27

Winter, week 1
"This moment is the koan. When practice and realization are without complexity, the koan is this present moment. That which is before any trace arises and the scenery on the other side of time's destruction, the activity of all Buddhas and awakened Ancestors, is just this one thing." --Keizan Jokin
Saturday Zen. Our next Zen service is Sat Dec 23, 10:00 - 11:45am, room 24
Community UU, 468 Rosedale Ave, White Plains, NY.
Practice to be led by Meredith.

Chants for Thu Dec 21 - Wed Dec 27:
  • Shorter Precepts, p. 62
  • Four Commitments, p. 65
  • Fourfold Commitment to Social Justice, p. 66
  • Heart Sutra, p. 14
See Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed. and
BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule

Reading this week: In Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed., pp. 50-57.
Starting Sat Jan 6, our book will be, Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special.

At Boundless Way Temple, 1030 Pleasant St, Worcester, MA:
  • Coming and Going Sesshin, Tue Jan 2, 19:00 – Mon Jan 22, 12:00. During these three weeks, participants "come and go" -- select a day, a week-end, several days, a week, or more when you can partake of this "encounter of the heart" (sesshin). INFO HERE.
Meredith's Latest Koan Post: Book of Serenity #67: The Wisdom in the Flower Garland Sutra: CLICK HERE

Gateless Gate 3

108
Gateless Gate (Mumonkan, Wumenguan) #3
Judi's One Finger (extended version)

Case
Whatever he was asked about Zen, Master Judi, simply stuck up one finger.
He had a boy attendant whom a visitor asked, "What kind of teaching does your master give?"
The boy held up one finger too.
Hearing of this, Judi cut off the boy's finger with a knife.
As the boy ran away screaming with pain, Judi called to him. When the boy turned his head, Judi stuck up one finger.
The boy was suddenly enlightened.
When Judi was about to die, he said to the assembled monks, "I have received this one-finger Zen from Hangzhou. I've used it all my life but have not exhausted it."
Having said this, he entered nirvana.

Blue Cliff Record 19, Book of Serenity 84

107
Blue Cliff Record (Hekiganroku, Biyan Lu) #19
Book of Serenity (Shoyoroku, Congrong Lu) #84
Judi's One Finger (briefer version)

Yuanwu's Preface
When even one particle stirs, the whole universe is involved; a blossom opens and the orld responds. But what do you see when no particle stirs and a blossom does not open? It is said that it is like cutting the thread on a reel: one cut and you cut it all. Or it is like dyeing the thread on a reel: dye it once and you dye it all. Now, if you eradicate all the complications that affect you and bring out the treasure within you, you will find that everything is all right, above and below, before and behind. If you have not yet done so, see the following.
Wansong's Preface
One hearing, a thousand realizations; one understanding, a thousand follow suit.
The people with the highest spirit capture all when one has been decided;
The people with the middle and lower spirits hear much, but do not believe much.
I will try to bring up the clear and the simple matter, look!
Case
Judi, whenever he was asked a question, only raised a finger.

Book of Serenity 94

106
Book of Serenity (Shoyoroku, Congrong Lu) #94
Dongshan Unwell

Personnel
  • Dongshan Liangjie (Tozan Ryokai, 807-69, 11th gen). Go to DONGSHAN
  • An unnamed monk
Wansong's Preface
The lower do not discuss the higher; the humble do not move the dignified.
Even if one rules over oneself and follows the others,
One should not burden the heavy by the light.
When the four elements [earth, water, fire, and wind] are not in order [i.e., when one is ill], how would one attend and serve?
Case
Dongshan was unwell. A monk asked, “Your Reverence is unwell. Is there anyone who does not become ill?”
Dongshan said, “There is.”
The monk said, “Does the one who does not get ill take care of Your Reverence?”
Dongshan said, “‘The old monk’ is properly taking care of the other one.”
The monk said, “How about when ‘your Reverence’ takes care of the other one?”
Dongshan said, “[The old monk] does not see that there is illness.”

Book of Serenity 98

105
Book of Serenity (Shoyoroku, Congrong Lu) #98
Dongshan's "Intimate With It"

Personnel
  • Dongshan Liangjie (Tozan Ryokai, 807-69, 11th gen). Go to DONGSHAN
  • An unnamed monk
Wansong's Preface
Jiufeng, by cutting off his tongue, followed Shishuang faithfully;
Caoshan, by cutting off his head, did not go against Dongshan.
The tongues of the ancients are so intimate as these.
Where is the art of doing good to people?
Case
A monk asked Dongshan, “Among the three bodies [of the Buddha -- namely, Dharmakaya (Dharma-body), Sambhogakaya (body of reward), Nirmanakaya (accommodated body)], what body does not degenerate into numbers [i.e. get trapped in numbers such as the three sections of “six roots [=sense organs], six functions, six areas”, the seven elements of “earth, water, fire, wind, etc.” and so on]?”
Dongshan said, “I am always most keenly with it.”