2020-07-12

Jul 13-19

Summer, week 4

Join the BoWZ-Westchester Sangha via Zoom every Saturday morning:
9:45a Eastern -- informal conversation
10:00a Eastern -- practice begins

https://zoom.us/j/2898507899
Audio Only: telephone 646-876-9923 & Enter Meeting ID: 289 850 7899

This Week's Reading for Sat Jul 18
  • Taizan Maezumi, Appreciate Your Life: The Essence of Zen Practice, "Three 'Pillows' of Zen," p. 13.
  • Reading Schedule HERE.
Questions

This Week's Raven Tale
Home Practice
  • Light a candle or stick of incense, or both
  • Three bows to Buddha
  • Gatha of Atonement (odd-numbered dates) or The Three Refuges (even-numbered dates);
  • Dedication (use Sutra Book and audio below)
  • Opening Verse (use Sutra Book and audio below)
  • Zazen (25 mins)
  • Sutra Service Readings (use Sutra Book and audio below)
  • Dharma Study (book or podcast, 15-30 mins)
  • Closing Verse (use Sutra Book and audio below)
Sutra Book for printing (two-columned pages): CLICK HERE. Sutra Book for reading on your computer screen (one-column pages): CLICK HERE. Page references are to the two-column version.

Opening: Odd-Numbered Dates
  • Gatha of Atonement, p. 1
  • Dedication 1, p. 1
  • The Five Remembrances, p. 4
Audio player below or CLICK HERE.


Opening: Even-Numbered Dates
  • The Three Refuges, p. 1
  • Dedication 1, p. 1
  • The Five Remembrances, p. 4
Audio player below or CLICK HERE.


Zazen
  • 25 mins.
Sutra Service
  • Sutra for Jul 13-19: Week 4.B. ("Komyozo Zanmai," p. 15; "Shantideva's Way of the Bodhisattva," p. 15)
Audio player below or CLICK HERE.

Dharma Study
  • Book or podcast, 15-30 mins.
Closing Verse for Mon Jun 15 - Sun Jul 12
  • The Way of Tenderness, p. 40; The Four Bodhisattva Vows, p. 42.
Audio player below or CLICK HERE.



NEWS

Thu Jul 9 is the deadline for registering for the "Distant Temple Bell" sesshin -- Fri Jul 10 to Mon Jul 13. Interested in attending (from your home, or wherever you are with your laptop computer) this on-line Boundless Way Zen retreat? See HERE.

Be a part of the Boundless Way discussion on racial justice! See HERE.

ADDITIONAL PRACTICE OPPORTUNITIES
Worcester Zen Temple:
Mon-Fri mornings, 7 AM -8 AM
Sun, Tue, Thu evenings, 7 PM - 8 PM
See https://worcesterzen.org/

White Plains Zen Center:
Tue evenings: 7:30 PM
https://zoom.us/j/122286388

Hudson River Zen Center:
http://hudsonriverzencenter.org/

Insight Meditation with Nina Nagy
Mon evenings: 6 PM
https://www.awakeabiding.com/

2020-07-08

Jul 6-12

Summer, week 3

Seth Segall will lead the gathering on Sat Jul 11.

Join the BoWZ-Westchester Sangha via Zoom every Saturday morning:
9:45a Eastern -- informal conversation
10:00a Eastern -- practice begins

https://zoom.us/j/2898507899
Audio Only: telephone 646-876-9923 & Enter Meeting ID: 289 850 7899

This Week's Reading for Sat Jul 11
  • Taizan Maezumi, Appreciate Your Life: The Essence of Zen Practice, "Endowed from the Start," pp. 7-12.
  • Reading Schedule HERE.
Questions
  • What experiences have you had of the way that your posture affects your zazen? Have you noticed how your body is when your attention wanders?
  • "When you breathe in, swallow the whole universe When you breathe out, breathe out the whole universe." What does this mean?
  • Mind and body are ungraspable. "Yet there is a way to appreciate the ungraspable. How? By being it?" How do you understand this?
This Week's Raven Tale
Home Practice
  • Light a candle or stick of incense, or both
  • Three bows to Buddha
  • Gatha of Atonement (odd-numbered dates) or The Three Refuges (even-numbered dates);
  • Dedication (use Sutra Book and audio below)
  • Opening Verse (use Sutra Book and audio below)
  • Zazen (25 mins)
  • Sutra Service Readings (use Sutra Book and audio below)
  • Dharma Study (book or podcast, 15-30 mins)
  • Closing Verse (use Sutra Book and audio below)
Sutra Book for printing (two-columned pages): CLICK HERE. Sutra Book for reading on your computer screen (one-column pages): CLICK HERE. Page references are to the two-column version.

Opening: Odd-Numbered Dates
  • Gatha of Atonement, p. 1
  • Dedication 1, p. 1
  • Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo, p. 4
Audio player below or CLICK HERE.


Opening: Even-Numbered Dates
  • The Three Refuges, p. 1
  • Dedication 1, p. 1
  • Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo, p. 4
Audio player below or CLICK HERE.

Zazen
  • 25 mins.
Sutra Service
  • Sutra for Jul 6-12: Week 3.B. ("Heart Sutra," p. 11; "Zazen Yojinki," p. 11)
Audio player below or CLICK HERE.

Dharma Study
  • Book or podcast, 15-30 mins.
Closing Verse for Mon Jun 15 - Sun Jul 12
  • Three Prayers, p. 36; Save All the Beings, p. 38.
Audio player below or CLICK HERE.


NEWS

Thu Jul 9 is the deadline for registering for the "Distant Temple Bell" sesshin -- Fri Jul 10 to Mon Jul 13. Interested in attending (from your home, or wherever you are with your laptop computer) this on-line Boundless Way Zen retreat? See HERE.

Be a part of the Boundless Way discussion on racial justice! See HERE.

ADDITIONAL PRACTICE OPPORTUNITIES
Worcester Zen Temple:
Mon-Fri mornings, 7 AM -8 AM
Sun, Tue, Thu evenings, 7 PM - 8 PM
See https://worcesterzen.org/

White Plains Zen Center:
Tue evenings: 7:30 PM
https://zoom.us/j/122286388

Hudson River Zen Center:
http://hudsonriverzencenter.org/

Insight Meditation with Nina Nagy
Mon evenings: 6 PM
https://www.awakeabiding.com/

2020-07-06

Raven 130: Self and Soul

Back in #19, Woodpecker asked about "essential nature," and Raven chided him for presuming that there is one. Other than that, there's been no mention of essential nature around Tallspruce.

It's true that Zen includes talk about this "essential nature" thing -- though often to warn us from any such conception. Here's Yamada Koun, for instance:
"Let’s say, for example, that you have experienced kensho and realized your own essential nature. As long as there is something like 'essential nature' in your head, it is still not the genuine article. If you have truly become one with it, you are not aware of it in the least. As long as there is an awareness of something like “essential nature” it is not yet the real thing."
Case
Owl spoke up again that evening after zazen and said, "The Buddha Macaw said there is no self and no soul, yet I hear a lot of talk about essential nature, which sounds a lot like soul."
Raven said, "No self, no soul, no essential nature."
Owl said, "How come we hear so much talk about it?"
Raven said, "No excuse whatsoever."
Verse
The sun at dusk alights the river,
Casts the leaves in gold, and the mountainside.
I am lost in thought about essence,
Or found in awareness of essencelessness.

It will soon be dark, and I have five or six kilometers
Through the woods to get back to my car.
Here is the essence and the essencelessness:
The stone on which I sit is harder than it was
Half an hour ago.
Case adapted from Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
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2020-07-03

Jun 29 - Jul 5

Summer, week 2

Join the BoWZ-Westchester Sangha via Zoom every Saturday morning:
9:45a Eastern -- informal conversation
10:00a Eastern -- practice begins

https://zoom.us/j/2898507899
Audio Only: telephone 646-876-9923 & Enter Meeting ID: 289 850 7899

This Week's Reading for Sat Jul 4
  • Taizan Maezumi, Appreciate Your Life: The Essence of Zen Practice, "Appreciate Your Life," pp. 3-7.
  • Reading Schedule HERE.
Questions
  • What is our life? What is our death?
  • What is this treasury of the true dharma eye and subtle mind of nirvana?
  • How can we experience the life that we are living now as an infinite, literally limitless life, as the subtle mind of nirvana?
  • I am the one who does not see my life as the subtle mind of nirvana. I am the one who is not experiencing life as treasure. What is this I that is blocking this realization?
  • "If you live one day with a clear understanding of what life is, the value of that one day is equal to many years of living without awareness." Is this true? How so?
  • "When we practice, we do not need to expect anything." What's it like to practice with intention and without expectation?
  • This life right now is nirvana. So what is the difference between Shakyamuni Buddha's life and your life?
This Week's Raven Tale
Home Practice
  • Light a candle or stick of incense, or both
  • Three bows to Buddha
  • Gatha of Atonement (odd-numbered dates) or The Three Refuges (even-numbered dates);
  • Dedication (use Sutra Book and audio below)
  • Opening Verse (use Sutra Book and audio below)
  • Zazen (25 mins)
  • Sutra Service Readings (use Sutra Book and audio below)
  • Dharma Study (book or podcast, 15-30 mins)
  • Closing Verse (use Sutra Book and audio below)
Sutra Book for printing (two-columned pages): CLICK HERE. Sutra Book for reading on your computer screen (one-column pages): CLICK HERE. Page references are to the two-column version.

Dedication
  • Odd-Numbered Dates: Gatha of Atonement, p. 1. Even-numbered Dates: The Three Refuges, p. 1
  • Dedication 1, p. 1
Odd-numbered dates: audio player below or CLICK HERE.
Even-numbered dates: audio player below or CLICK HERE.

Opening Verse for Mon Jun 15 - Sun Jul 12
  • Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo, p. 3
Audio player below or CLICK HERE.

Zazen
  • 25 mins.
Sutra Service
  • Sutra for Jun 29-Jul 5: Week 2.A. ("Sengcan's Heart of True Entrusting," p. 7)
Dharma Study
  • Book or podcast, 15-30 mins.
Closing Verse for Mon Jun 15 - Sun Jul 12
  • Three Prayers, p. 36; Save All the Beings, p. 38.
Audio player below or CLICK HERE.

NEWS

Be a part of the Boundless Way discussion on racial justice! See HERE.

Interested in attending (from your home, or wherever you are with your laptop computer) the on-line Boundless Way Zen retreat Fri Jul 10 - Mon Jul 13? See HERE.

Raven 129: The Dualistic Idea

We think and talk in dualisms: good and bad, is and is not, home and away.

These dualisms are necessary. They are also false. The challenge is to use them while also seeing through them.

Case
Owl came to Raven for a private meeting and asked, "Is there something pure and clear underneath everything?"
Raven said, "You can say that."
Owl said, "Isn't it a dualistic idea? I thought Buddhism is a religion of oneness.":
Raven croaked and then said, "Show me your essential purity and clarity."
Owl said, "I was just asking a question about Buddhism."
Raven said, "Don't neglect your religion of oneness."
Verse
First comes inferring what must be underneath.
Or believing what somebody else inferred.
And maybe that's enough,
And maybe not. Maybe you want to see it more directly --
Though what "directly" is, or "see," you don't know.

Legends say that once you see it
You'll see it's not underneath,
but immediately presents.
You never were looking at anything else,
Legends say.
Case adapted from Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
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2020-06-22

Jun 22-28

Summer, week 1

Join the BoWZ-Westchester Sangha via Zoom every Saturday morning:
9:45a Eastern -- informal conversation
10:00a Eastern -- practice begins

https://zoom.us/j/2898507899
Audio Only: telephone 646-876-9923 & Enter Meeting ID: 289 850 7899

Home Practice
  • Light a candle or stick of incense, or both
  • Three bows to Buddha
  • Gatha of Atonement (odd-numbered dates) or The Three Refuges (even-numbered dates);
  • Dedication + Opening Verse (use Sutra Book and audio below)
  • Zazen (25 mins)
  • Sutra Service Readings (use Sutra Book and audio below)
  • Dharma Study (book or podcast, 15-30 mins)
  • Closing: Closing Verse; Four Bodhisattva Vows or Save All the Beings (use Sutra Book and audio below)
Sutra Book for printing (two-columned pages): CLICK HERE. Sutra Book for reading on your computer screen (one-column pages): CLICK HERE.
Page references are to the two-column version.

Opening
  • Gatha of Atonement (odd dates), or The Three Refuges (even dates), p. 1 (not on audio recording).
  • Dedication 1, p. 1; Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo, p. 3.
Audio player below or CLICK HERE.


Zazen
  • 25 mins.
Sutra Service
  • Sutras for Jun 22-28: Week 1. (Precepts, p. 1.)
Audio player below or CLICK HERE.


Dharma Study
  • Book or podcast, 15-30 mins.
Closing
  • Three Prayers, p. 36; Save All the Beings, p. 38.
Audio player below or CLICK HERE.


This Week's Reading for Sat Jun 27
  • Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, "Epilogue: Zen Mind." Reading Schedule HERE.
  • NEXT BOOK (starts in July): Taizan Maezumi, Appreciate Your Life. Order a copy now.
This Week's Raven Tale

NEWS

I highly recommend Bryan Stephenson's book, Just Mercy, as well as the film of the same name about Stephenson's work. See my own writing about Stephenson and the issues he addresses, starting HERE.

Mike Fieleke, a Boundless Way Guiding Teacher, has done a lovely job of elucidating the connection between Zen practice and racial justice HERE.

On Fri Jun 19, the Guiding Teachers Council of Boundless Way Zen issued this letter responding to institutional racism:

We, the Guiding Teachers of Boundless Way Zen, grieve the recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Rayshard Brooks. We also grieve the disproportionate suffering and death of people of color due to the coronavirus, which has exposed underlying inequities in our society. We recognize the deeply embedded and often violent ways systemic racism and white privilege deprive everyone of the justice, respect, and equal rights we have vowed to co-create with all beings.

We vow to practice the humility that is essential to listening deeply and that is the beginning of real and lasting change. We vow to investigate and transform our deluded views and blindnesses that maintain overt and systemic racism. We commit to continually awaken and grow on this journey toward liberation for all.

We stand in solidarity with those who have suffered racial violence and injustice, with all oppressed peoples, and with those who work for racial and environmental justice. Understanding that statements of solidarity must be accompanied by action, we vow to challenge the many ways in which institutions, including Zen groups, perpetuate a culture of oppression, segregation, and inequitable outcomes.

Today is Juneteenth, marking the 155th anniversary of the day when it was announced in Texas that Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation two and a half years before. While this is a day of celebration, it also serves as a reminder that there remains much progress to be made. As we hear the cries of the world, we recall our Bodhisattva vows to be of service in this burning world. In collaboration with other sangha members, we will soon begin a social justice group focused on how to be an active anti-racist, and we invite everyone to participate. We also share this reading list to help us begin to educate ourselves. We are committed to this ongoing collective practice of awakening and taking action for the liberation of all beings.

With deep bows of appreciation and shared sorrow,

Melissa Blacker, Roshi
David Rynick, Roshi
Bob Waldinger, Sensei
Michael Fieleke, Sensei




2020-06-21

128. The Seed of Enlightenment

We first saw Reverend Crane in #33, when the Tallspruce Community visited his Little Church in the Grotto. He then came to visit the Tallspruce gang in #107, where he asked what role God has in our practice.

Dogen describes his journey, both spiritual and geographic:
"After the aspiration for enlightenment arose, I began to search for dharma, visiting teachers at various places in our country. Then I met priest Myozen [1184-1225], of the Kennin Monastery, with whom I trained for nine years, and thus I learned a little about the teaching of the Linji School....Later I went to Great Song China, visited masters on both sides of the Zhe River, and heard the teachings of the Five Gates. Finally, I became a student of Zen master [Tiantong] Rujing [1163-1228] of Taibo Peak, and completed my life’s quest of the great matter." (Bendowa)
It begins with the arousing of an aspiration for enlightenment. But what kind of aspiration is this? Until one experiences enlightenment, one can have only deluded conceptions of what it is. Yet somehow aspiring for a deluded conception of enlightenment -- that is, aspiring for something entirely different from enlightenment -- is a necessary first step.

We have to start where we are -- with the delusions, projections, and imaginings that we have.

Case
Reverend Crane stopped by again one evening to hear one of Raven's talks. Afterward he asked, "Do I have the seed of enlightenment?"
Raven said, "You can be your best Reverend Crane."
Crane said, "Are we talking about character development?"
Raven said, "Have to start somewhere."
Crane said, "Maybe my best Crane is just something I imagine."
Raven said, "Have to start somewhere."
Verse
Where did you start?
I don't mean, in the womb,
Or the wombs of your two grandmothers,
where your parents waited to be born.
I don't mean the 64 wombs from which your fourth-great-grandparents came,
a couple centuries ago.
I don't mean the first human, first primate, first mammal, first life.
You could pick any of those, say that's where you started,
and have a good point,
But that's not what I mean.
Nor do I mean when you were four, or went to first grade,
Or turned 18.
I mean: where were you when you stepped onto the great way?
Where in your body did the cold lump of defeat weigh?
the smoldering ash of shame,
the cavity of loneliness?
Where was the clench?
stomach? shoulders? throat? chest?
Wherever it was, it reached down to your foot,
and lifted it in the direction of the path.
Wherever it was, that's where you started --
There, and where you are right now.
Case adapted from Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
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2020-06-15

Jun 15-21

Spring, week 13

Join the BoWZ-Westchester Sangha via Zoom at 10:00 Eastern every Saturday morning:

https://zoom.us/j/2898507899
Audio Only: telephone 646-876-9923 & Enter Meeting ID: 289 850 7899

Home Practice
  • Light a candle or stick of incense, or both
  • Three bows to Buddha
  • Gatha of Atonement (odd-numbered dates) or The Three Refuges (even-numbered dates);
  • Dedication + Opening Verse (use Sutra Book and audio below)
  • Zazen (25 mins)
  • Sutra Service Readings (use Sutra Book and audio below)
  • Dharma Study (book or podcast, 15-30 mins)
  • Closing: Closing Verse; Four Bodhisattva Vows or Save All the Beings (use Sutra Book and audio below)
Sutra Book for printing (two-columned pages): CLICK HERE. Sutra Book for reading on your computer screen (one-column pages): CLICK HERE.
Page references are to the two-column version.

Opening
  • Gatha of Atonement, or The Three Refuges, p. 1 (not on audio recording).
  • Dedication 1, p. 1; Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo, p. 3.
Audio player below or CLICK HERE.


Zazen
  • 25 mins.
Sutra Service
  • Readings for Jun 15-22: 13.A. (Heart Sutra, p. 10; The Misunderstanding of Many Lifetimes, p. 33; Self and Other the Same, p. 33; Guidepost for the Hall of Pure Bliss, p. 34.)
Audio player below or CLICK HERE.


Dharma Study
  • Book or podcast, 15-30 mins.
Closing
  • Three Prayers, p. 36; Save All the Beings, p. 38.
Audio player below or CLICK HERE.


This Week's Reading for Sat Jun 20
  • Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, "Buddha's Englightenment." Reading Schedule HERE.
  • NEXT BOOK (starts in July): Taizan Maezumi, Appreciate Your Life. Order a copy now.
This Week's Raven Tale
This Week's Practice: Continuing from last week -- Tonglen.
Adapted from Pema Chodron, "How to Practice Tonglen," Lion's Roar.

Tonglen practice, also known as “taking and sending,” reverses our usual logic of avoiding suffering and seeking pleasure. In tonglen practice, we visualize taking in the pain of others with every in-breath and sending out whatever will benefit them on the out-breath. In the process, we become liberated from age-old patterns of selfishness. We begin to feel love for both ourselves and others; we begin to take care of ourselves and others.

Tonglen can be done for those who are ill, those who are dying or have died, or those who are in pain of any kind. It can be done as a formal meditation practice or right on the spot at any time. If we are out walking and we see someone in pain, we can breathe in that person’s pain and send out relief to them.

Breathe in for all of us and breathe out for all of us. Use what seems like poison as medicine.

We can also do tonglen for all the people just like ourselves — all those who wish to be compassionate but instead are afraid, who wish to be brave but instead are cowardly. We can use our personal stuckness as a stepping stone to understanding what people are up against all over the world. Breathe in for all of us and breathe out for all of us.

When you do tonglen as a formal meditation practice, it has four stages:

1. Flash on Bodhichitta. Rest your mind for a second or two in a state of openness or stillness. This stage is traditionally called flashing on absolute bodhichitta, awakened heart-mind, or opening to basic spaciousness and clarity.

2. Begin the Visualization. Work with texture. Breathe in feelings of heat, darkness, and heaviness — a sense of claustrophobia — and breathe out feelings of coolness, brightness, and light—a sense of freshness. Breathe in completely, taking in negative energy through all the pores of your body. When you breathe out, radiate positive energy completely, through all the pores of your body. Do this until your visualization is synchronized with your in- and out-breaths.

3. Focus on a Personal Situation. Focus on any painful situation that’s real to you. Traditionally you begin by doing tonglen for someone you care about and wish to help. However, if you are stuck, you can do the practice for the pain you are feeling yourself, and simultaneously for all those who feel the same kind of suffering. For instance, if you are feeling inadequate, breathe that in for yourself and all the others in the same boat and send out confidence, adequacy, and relief in any form you wish.

4. Expand Your Compassion. Finally, make the taking in and sending out bigger. If you are doing tonglen for someone you love, extend it out to all those who are in the same situation. If you are doing tonglen for someone you see on television or on the street, do it for all the others in the same boat. Make it bigger than just that one person. You can do tonglen for people you consider to be your enemies—those who hurt you or hurt others. Do tonglen for them, thinking of them as having the same confusion and stuckness as your friend or yourself. Breathe in their pain and send them relief.

2020-06-13

127: Impermanence

Brains were made for keeping us alive. Their capacity to imagine the future is for helping us mentally rehearse potential future situations so that we will more effectively cope, in the event something similar were to happen. It can't imagine nonexistence because its imagination exists solely to prevent nonexistence. Thus, it can only visualize situations with us -- or with people we might have to deal with -- existing in them.

Through many spiritual practices, including Zen, one may come to apprehend that the self is the world. This is not imagining or visualizing, not a preparation for an eventuality of becoming the world, nor a preparation at all. It's just recognizing the fact that one's self comprises all of reality. Thus, the one who visualizes "your" futures will someday cease, but the self will continue in all its multitudinous other forms: ants, sticks, grizzly bears -- mountains, rivers, stars.

Speaking of stars. If this doesn't make sense, try being pensive beneath a starry sky for a while.

Case
One night, under the starry sky, the circle was quiet and members seemed pensive.
Badger broke the silence and said, "You know, I can't visualize myself expiring completely."
Raven said, "A ghost."
Badger said, "Even ghosts are impermanent, aren't they?"
Raven said, "Take care of your miseries now, and they won't abide."
Verse
The one who attends to misery --
My inner Kannon hearing the cries of the world --
Gathers anguish up -- a curious burden
that buoys as it freights,
and liberates as it compels --
Smelts it and blends it into my mettle.
Alloyed gold
Is more durable than the pure stuff.
Case adapted from Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
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2020-06-08

Jun 8-14

Spring, week 12

Join the BoWZ-Westchester Sangha via Zoom at 10:00 Eastern every Saturday morning:

https://zoom.us/j/2898507899
Audio Only: telephone 646-876-9923 & Enter Meeting ID: 289 850 7899

Home Practice
  • Light a candle or stick of incense, or both
  • Three bows to Buddha
  • Opening: Gatha of Atonement or the Three Refuges; Dedication; Opening Verse (use Sutra Book and audio below)
  • Zazen (15-30 mins)
  • Sutra Service Readings (use Sutra Book and audio below)
  • Dharma Study (book or podcast, 15-30 mins)
  • Closing: Closing Verse; Four Bodhisattva Vows or Save All the Beings (use Sutra Book and audio below)
Sutra Book for printing (two-columned pages): CLICK HERE. Sutra Book for reading on your computer screen (one-column pages): CLICK HERE. Page references are to the two-column version.

Odd Days: Jun 9, 11, 13
Opening: Gatha of Atonement, p. 1; Dedication 1, p. 1; The Flame of Practice, p. 3.
Audio player below or CLICK HERE.


Even Days: Jun 8, 10, 12, 14
Opening: The Three Refuges, p. 1; Dedication 1, p. 1; The Flame of Practice, p. 3.
Audio player below or CLICK HERE.


All Days
Zazen (15-30 mins)
Sutra Service Readings 12.A.: The Essence of Atonement, p. 30; Sharing of Blessings, p. 30, Dahui's Dim and Dull, p. 31, Taego's Days Like Lightning, p. 31.
Audio player below or CLICK HERE.


Dharma Study (book or podcast, 15-30 mins)
Closing: The Necessity of Great Doubt, p. 36; The Four Bodhisattva Vows, p. 38.
Audio player below or CLICK HERE.


This Week's Reading for Sat Jun 6
  • Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, "Beyond Consciousness." Reading Schedule HERE.
  • NEXT BOOK (starts in July): Taizan Maezumi, Appreciate Your Life. Order a copy now.
This Week's Raven Tale

This Week's Practice: Tonglen.
Adapted from Pema Chodron, "How to Practice Tonglen," Lion's Roar.

Tonglen practice, also known as “taking and sending,” reverses our usual logic of avoiding suffering and seeking pleasure. In tonglen practice, we visualize taking in the pain of others with every in-breath and sending out whatever will benefit them on the out-breath. In the process, we become liberated from age-old patterns of selfishness. We begin to feel love for both ourselves and others; we begin to take care of ourselves and others.

Tonglen can be done for those who are ill, those who are dying or have died, or those who are in pain of any kind. It can be done as a formal meditation practice or right on the spot at any time. If we are out walking and we see someone in pain, we can breathe in that person’s pain and send out relief to them.

Breathe in for all of us and breathe out for all of us. Use what seems like poison as medicine.

We can also do tonglen for all the people just like ourselves — all those who wish to be compassionate but instead are afraid, who wish to be brave but instead are cowardly. We can use our personal stuckness as a stepping stone to understanding what people are up against all over the world. Breathe in for all of us and breathe out for all of us.

When you do tonglen as a formal meditation practice, it has four stages:

1. Flash on Bodhichitta. Rest your mind for a second or two in a state of openness or stillness. This stage is traditionally called flashing on absolute bodhichitta, awakened heart-mind, or opening to basic spaciousness and clarity.

2. Begin the Visualization. Work with texture. Breathe in feelings of heat, darkness, and heaviness — a sense of claustrophobia — and breathe out feelings of coolness, brightness, and light—a sense of freshness. Breathe in completely, taking in negative energy through all the pores of your body. When you breathe out, radiate positive energy completely, through all the pores of your body. Do this until your visualization is synchronized with your in- and out-breaths.

3. Focus on a Personal Situation. Focus on any painful situation that’s real to you. Traditionally you begin by doing tonglen for someone you care about and wish to help. However, if you are stuck, you can do the practice for the pain you are feeling yourself, and simultaneously for all those who feel the same kind of suffering. For instance, if you are feeling inadequate, breathe that in for yourself and all the others in the same boat and send out confidence, adequacy, and relief in any form you wish.

4. Expand Your Compassion. Finally, make the taking in and sending out bigger. If you are doing tonglen for someone you love, extend it out to all those who are in the same situation. If you are doing tonglen for someone you see on television or on the street, do it for all the others in the same boat. Make it bigger than just that one person. You can do tonglen for people you consider to be your enemies—those who hurt you or hurt others. Do tonglen for them, thinking of them as having the same confusion and stuckness as your friend or yourself. Breathe in their pain and send them relief.

126: Watch Out!

We've only seen Cougar once before -- back in #23, when he asked about whether karma was "just cause and effect."

Is impermanence ("all things pass quickly away") a reason not to care about others? Should we care about them only if they (or if something) is permanent?

Perhaps the impermanence of all things is precisely the reason for lovingkindness and compassion right now. Perhaps that's what Raven is saying.

Mara can quote scriptures -- and selectively use a teaching against other teachings. But all the teachings point in the same way; each one is an implication of all the others. So if you're using one teaching (e.g., impermanence) to question another teaching (e.g., compassion), then you've understood neither teaching.

Case
Cougar's presence created a certain tension in the circle, but he didn't seem aware of it. One evening he asked, "If all things pass quickly away, why should we be concerned about suffering of others?"
Mole abruptly excused himself with a bow and hurried off, muttering.
Raven said, "Mara can quote sutras."
Cougar said, "I'm serious."
Raven said, "All things pass quickly away."
Verse
"If everything is urgent, then nothing is."
The management consultants direct.
They mean, by this major premise,
To imply a modus tollens:
Minor premise: It's not the case that nothing is urgent.
Therefore, conclusion, not everything is.

I accept your premise, Madam or Sir Advisor.
And build, instead, a modus ponens:
Minor premise: Everything is, indeed, urgent.
Therefore, conclusion, nothing is.
Every sight seen or sound heard --
Or fragrance smelled, or tactile sensation felt --
Is of a thing that cannot wait,
And that does.

Now, dear ones, consulting and consulted,
I offer you this (different?) proposition:
If everything is impermanent, then nothing is.
This, and that, and all, pass away.
And don't.
Their departure casts them in the light of eternity,
As every tick of the clock is redolent with timelessness.

What, then, could be urgent? What not?
Case adapted from Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
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2020-06-01

Jun 1-7

Spring, week 11

Join the BoWZ-Westchester Sangha via Zoom at 10:00 Eastern every Saturday morning:

https://zoom.us/j/2898507899
Audio Only: telephone 646-876-9923 & Enter Meeting ID: 289 850 7899

Home Practice
  • Light a candle or stick of incense, or both
  • Three bows to Buddha
  • Opening: Gatha of Atonement or the Three Refuges; Dedication; Opening Verse (use Sutra Book and audio below)
  • Zazen (15-30 mins)
  • Sutra Service Readings (use Sutra Book and audio below)
  • Dharma Study (book or podcast, 15-30 mins)
  • Closing: Closing Verse; Four Bodhisattva Vows or Save All the Beings (use Sutra Book and audio below)
Sutra Book for printing (two-columned pages): CLICK HERE. Sutra Book for reading on your computer screen (one-column pages): CLICK HERE. Page references are to the two-column version.

Odd Days: Jun 1, 3, 5, 7
Opening: Gatha of Atonement, p. 1; Dedication 1, p. 1; The Flame of Practice, p. 3.
Audio player below or CLICK HERE.


Even Days: Jun 2, 4, 6, 8
Opening: The Three Refuges, p. 1; Dedication 1, p. 1; The Flame of Practice, p. 3.
Audio player below or CLICK HERE.


All Days
Zazen (15-30 mins)
Sutra Service Readings 11.A.: Guidance in Shikantaza, p. 28; Sending-and-Receiving, p. 28; A Blessing for the Journey, p. 29.
Audio player below or CLICK HERE.


Dharma Study (book or podcast, 15-30 mins)
Closing: The Necessity of Great Doubt, p. 36; The Four Bodhisattva Vows, p. 38.
Audio player below or CLICK HERE.

This Week's Reading for Sat Jun 6
  • Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, "Original Buddhism." Reading Schedule HERE.
  • NEXT BOOK (starts in July): Taizan Maezumi, Appreciate Your Life. Order a copy now.
This Week's Raven Tale

2020-05-31

125: Guided by Karma

This is Wolverine's third appearance. The first was in #36, where Wolverine was avoiding first-person pronouns because, she claimed, "No-self has appeared." The second was in #114 regarding the meaning (or possibility) of hiding.

The Zen story, "Baizhang and the Fox" (Gateless Gate #2) makes the point that, on the one hand, an enlightened person does not fall under the law of cause and effect (i.e., is not tangled in the laws of karma), and, on the other hand, such a person is attentive to cause and effect (is not free of karmic law).

Our causes and conditions push and pull us in various ways. Among the causes and conditions may be, if we're lucky, the capacity to step back from causes and conditions, identify and evaluate them -- and thereby engage a more awakened self with the situation.

Case
Wolverine wandered by again and positioned herself in the tall grass just outside the circle.
"I don't know why I'm here," she said, with a rather far-away look in her eyes. "I guess my karma brought me."
Raven asked, "Don't you have a say-so?"
Wolverine said, "I just let myself be guided."
Raven said, "How about when a hunter trails meat to a trap?"
Wolverine put her head on her paws.
Verse
Intention arises, sometimes, dispelling aimlessness.
Maybe it clarifies into a trumpet
of compelling and bold mission.
Who blows that rally horn?
Whence the source of its call --
Or my answering march?
When the brass beckoning of grace sounds
There is no resistance --
Or none not overwhelmed --
Which means this too is
following the path of least.
Case adapted from Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
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2020-05-25

May 25-31

Spring, week 10

Join the BoWZ-Westchester Sangha via Zoom at 10:00 Eastern every Saturday morning:

https://zoom.us/j/2898507899
Audio Only: telephone 646-876-9923 & Enter Meeting ID: 289 850 7899

This Week's Chants -- May 25-31.
Sutra Book for printing (two-columned pages): CLICK HERE
Sutra Book for reading on your computer screen (one-column pages): CLICK HERE
Page numbers below refer to the two-column version:
  • Opening: #3 The Three Refuges, p. 1, Dedication, p. 1, The Flame of Practice, p. 3.
  • Sutra Service #10: Heart Sutra, p. 10, Torei's Bodhisattva's Vow, p. 26-27, Hakuin's Great Doubt, p. 27, Shitou's Song of the Grass Roof Hermitage, p. 27.
  • Closing: #3 The Necessity of Great Doubt, p. 36, The Four Bodhisattva Vows, p. 38.
Home Practice Format, with recordings for chanting along.
  • Light a candle or a stick of incense (or both)
  • Three bows to Buddha (a statue, image, or object representing awakened nature)
  • Opening Recitation: "The Three Refuges," "Dedication," and "The Flame of Practice"
(Audio player below or CLICK HERE.)
  • Sit Zazen (set a timer for 15 to 30 mins)
  • Sutra Service: Chant along the Readings for week 10: Heart Sutra, p. 10, Torei's Bodhisattva's Vow, p. 26-27, Hakuin's Great Doubt, p. 27, Shitou's Song of the Grass Roof Hermitage, p. 27.
(Audio player below or CLICK HERE.)
  • Dharma Study: 30 minutes of Dharma Reading or listening to a Dharma podcast (tea optional). For suggestions, see the "Reading/Videos" tab.
  • Closing: "The Necessity of Great Doubt" and "The Four Bodhisattva Vows"
(Audio player below or CLICK HERE.)

This Week's Reading for Sat May 30
  • Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, "Experience, Not Philsophy." Reading Schedule HERE.
This Week's Raven Tale

124: The Joke

When Zen people appear to be dodging a question, maybe they are dodging it. Or maybe they are directly answering it. Or maybe both. Consider Blue Cliff Record #78:
A monastic asked Zhaozhou, "All the Dharmas are reduced to oneness, but what is oneness reduced to?" Zhaozhou said, "When I was in Qingzhou, I made a hempen shirt. It weighed seven pounds."
Can you see how "I made a seven-pound hempen shirt" is exactly what oneness is reduced to? Zhaozhou could not have more directly answered the monastic's question. Or consider the case that appears as both Blue Cliff Record #73 and Book of Serenity #6:
A monastic asked Great Master Mazu, "Please tell me directly, Master, the meaning of Bodhidharma's coming from the West."
Master Mazu said, "I am tired today, I can't explain it to you. Go and ask Zhizang."
The monastic asked Zhizang about it.
Zhizang said, "Why don't you ask our master?"
The monastic said, "He told me to ask you."
Zhizang said, "I have a headache today, I can't explain it to you. Go and ask Brother Huaihai."
The monastic asked Huaihai about it.
Huaihai said, "I understand nothing about that question."
The monastic told Great Master Mazu about it.
Great Master said, "Zhizang's head is white, Huaihai's head is black."
This monastic wants to know the meaning of Bodhidharma coming from the west. This is thoroughly explained to him five times. (1) I'm tired. (2) Why don't you ask our master? (3) I have a headache. (4) I don't understand. (5) This is white and that is black. Each one of those answers tells precisely the meaning of Bodhidharma coming from the west.

"It really doesn't amount to much" is the joke -- and saying that to Mallard is letting Mallard in on that joke.

Case
Porcupine was foraging near Stillpond and met Mallard unexpectedly,
"Porcupine!" exclaimed Mallard, "I've wanted to ask you about something. It almost seems that you and Raven have a secret understanding of some kind."
Porcupine said, "We know the same joke."
"Can you let me in on it?" asked Mallard.
"It really doesn't amount to much," said Porcupine.
"Tell me," demanded Mallard.
"Mallard!" Porcupine exclaimed. "You aren't listening!"
Verse
"When devoted invocations are sent forth, they are perceived and subtly answered."
And if the invocation isn't devoted?
Or isn't sent forth?
Or, for that matter, isn't invoked?
Still perceived.
Still answered.
Still subtle.
Case adapted from Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
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