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

(Intro and verse are in process. Please check back in a day.)

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
Case adapted from Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
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2020-05-17

May 18-24

Spring, week 9

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 -- Mon May 18 - Sun May 24.
We have a new Sutra Book, significantly expanded!
For printing (two-columned pages): CLICK HERE
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. 3
  • 9.A., p. 24: Eihei Koso Hotsuganmon, Mangala Sutta, Shantideva's Way of the Bodhisattva, Coming and Going, pp. 24-25.
  • Closing: #3 The Necessity of Great Doubt, p. 36, The Four Bodhisattva Vows
Some additional texts as well as a Quarterly Study Schedule are included in this addendum: CLICK HERE.

Home Practice Format, with recordings for chanting along with.
-Lighting the Flame (light a candle -- also, if desired, a stick of incense)
-Three bows to Buddha (a statue or image representing awakened nature)
-Opening Recitation: "Universal Dedication" and "The Three Refuges"
(Audio player below or CLICK HERE.)


-Sit (set a timer for 15 to 30 mins)
-Sutra Service: Chant along the 9.A. Readings on this Recording
(Audio player below or CLICK HERE.)


-Closing: "The Necessity of Great Doubt" and "The Four Bodhisattva Vows"
(Audio player below or CLICK HERE.)


Bonus: Here's the sung version of one of this week's chants: "Shantideva's Way of the Bodhisattva" recorded by the Great Vow Zen Monastery Quartet.


This Week's Reading for Sat May 23
  • Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, "Experience, Not Philsophy." Reading Schedule HERE.
This Week's Raven Tale
This Week's Koan
This Week's Practice: Hands Practice.

Feel your hands with your hands. Bring all your attention to your hands. What sensations do you get from them? Notice how the sensations shift and change. What are the sensations like? Investigate! Investigate!

2020-05-16

123: Fascinated

The course you travel as you roam about seeking earnestly for the path: that's the path. Suppose you look down to see this path you're on. If you do so while walking, you'll trip on something. If you stop to do so, you only see the ground around your feet: a spot, not a path. Better get back to looking for the path.

Case
At a private meeting Grouse said, "I'm not sure that I am dedicated enough to my practice."
Raven said, "Never mind about being dedicated."
Grouse said, "The truth is, I haven't the foggiest idea of what the practice really is."
"Me, either," Raven said, "but aren't you curious?"
Grouse said, "Fascinated."
Raven said, "There you go."
Verse
In a trackless forest,
making my way slowly through brush,
I came upon an unlikely hut,
and a woman in the doorway,
hoe in hand, watching my approach.
"Which way to the road?" I asked.
She studied me silently.
"Which..." I started to ask again louder,
when she said, "Just keep on."
Before I could say, "Which direction?"
she stepped back and
closed the door.
Case adapted from Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
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2020-05-15

May 11-17

Spring, week 8

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 -- Mon May 11 - Sun May 17. From our Sutra Book HERE
  • Opening: Invocation of Kanzeon, p. 3
  • Hongzhi's Silent Illumination, p. 17
  • Closing: Spring Everywhere, p. 26; Save All the Beings, p. 30
This Week's Reading for Sat May 16
  • Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, "Calmness."
This Week's Raven Tale

2020-05-14

Raven 122: The Party

When you're glad, the world is glad. Because you're projecting? Your joy makes you notice the world's joy? Maybe because the world's joy makes you notice your own. Maybe you are the world?

Case
Members were excited about Raven's announcement.
Woodpecker said, "Let's have a party."
So the next night everybody gathered for grubs and leavings to celebrate.
Mole asked, "How is it to be a new teacher, Porcupine?"
Porcupine said, "Not sure yet."
Owl said, "The Assembly Oak is glad."
Badger asked, "Come on, how can that be?"
Porcupine said, "I'm glad for Owl."
Verse
Mountains, prairies, rivers, oceans,
great wide earth, sun, moon, stars --
They do this thing, individually and collectively,
That's like celebrating and like grieving
Simultaneously. Continuously.
They do this thing
That's like love, that's
Never not abundant, never not bereft.
Case adapted from Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
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2020-05-05

May 4 - 10

Spring, week 7

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 -- Mon Apr 27 - Sun May 3. From our Sutra Book HERE
  • Opening: Invocation of Kanzeon, p. 3
  • Fukanzazengi, p. 16
  • Heart Sutra, p. 10
  • Closing: Spring Everywhere, p. 26; Save All the Beings, p. 30
Chant at home along with Meredith & LoraKim -- Main Sutras of the Week, "Fukanzazengi" and "Heart Sutra":


Or CLICK HERE

Closing: "Spring Everywhere" and "Save All the Beings":


Or CLICK HERE

This Week's Reading for Sat May 9
  • Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, "Attachment, Non-Attachment." Reading Schedule HERE.
This Week's Raven Tale
This Week's Koan
This Week's Practice: Sounds Practice

Focus all your attention on the sounds you're hearing. The following instructions are from Sylvia Boorstein, Tricycle Magazine:

“Deep hearing, then, is not just an auditory sensation, involving the ear, but a matter of the whole . ‘Deep hearing of the Dharma’ means embodying the Buddha Dharma, an experiential awakening of the total self, conscious and unconscious, mind and body.” (Rev. Taitetsu Unno)

One specific method for practicing mindfulness of body sensations is to focus your attention on sounds. Sounds, like everything else, arise and pass away. Just by listening, you can experience the insight of impermanence, an understanding the Buddha taught as crucial for the development of wisdom.

Early morning is great for listening. Sounds start to slip into the stillness. In a rural setting, the sounds are likely to be those of birds and animals waking up. In a city, sounds of outside action begin-garbage collection, building construction, traffic. Even in the rarefied air of a high-rise hotel room, plumbing sounds and elevator sounds and footsteps in the hall pick up in pace.

Sit in a position in which you can be relaxed and alert. Close your eyes.

The stillness of your posture and the absence of visual stimuli both enhance hearing consciousness. People are sometimes surprised to discover how much sensory consciousness gets lost in the shuffle of distracted attention.

After your body is settled comfortably, just listen. Don’t scan for sounds; wait for them. You might think of the difference between radar that goes out looking for something and a satellite dish with a wide range of pickup capacity that just sits in the backyard, waiting. Be a satellite dish. Stay turned on, but just wait.

At the beginning, you’ll likely find that you are naming sounds, “door slam … elevator … footsteps … bird … airplane … ” Sometimes you’ll name the feeling tone that accompanies the experience: “bird … pleasant … pneumatic drill … unpleasant … laughter … pleasant … ” After a while, you may discover that the naming impulse relaxes. What remains is awareness of the presence or absence of sounds: “hearing … not hearing … sound arising … sound passing away … pleasant … not pleasant.”

Think of your listening meditation now as a wake-up exercise for your attention. However it happens-with names, without names, with feeling tone awareness or without-just let it happen. Don’t try to accomplish anything. Just listen.

Raven 121: Shaking the Tree

Mess with something, and you get poked and pricked. Did the thing do that, or did you do it to yourself? Where is responsibility -- and what?

Case
Raven called a special meeting of the Tallspruce community to announce that Porcupine was to become a teacher.
"Porcupine has shaken the old crab-apple tree and brought down some tasty little fruits," she said solemnly. "He'll share them if you like."
Black Bear said, "I'm afraid I'll get poked with his quills."
Raven said, "That's the risk."
Mole said, "I'd like to hear from Porcupine."
Porcupine said, "Actually, I don't poke. You poke yourself."
Black Bear said, "How can I avoid poking myself?"
Porcupine said, "Don't mess with me."
Verse
Teachers and students, friends and lovers,
Robins, glaucous macaws,
The local stream, the distant hills, the vast ocean,
The trees: oak and birch, poplar and larch,
Pine, cedar, dogwood, and all the rest,
And all the rest, the great blue planet:
To love is not to seek to merge,
Nor to embrace, nor to be embraced by,
But to be infused with the vivid certainty
That separation never happened and couldn't.
The fact is already accomplished,
Teachers and students, friends and lovers.
Case adapted from Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
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2020-04-28

Apr 27 - May 3

Spring, week 6

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

https://zoom.us/j/2898507899

This Week's Chants -- Mon Apr 27 - Sun May 3. From our Sutra Book HERE
  • Opening: Invocation of Kanzeon, p. 3
  • Genjokoan 2, p. 14
  • Yuibutsu Yobutsu, p. 15
  • Closing: Spring Everywhere, p. 26; Save All the Beings, p. 30
Chant at home along with Meredith & LoraKim -- Main Sutra of the Week, "Genjokoan 2" and "Yuibutsu Yobutsu":



Closing: "Spring Everywhere" and "Save All the Beings":



This Week's Reading for Sat May 2
  • Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, "Believing in Nothing." (Same as last week). Reading Schedule HERE.
This Week's Raven Tale
  • #120, Where Are They? HERE. Raven Index HERE.
This Week's Koan
  • Book of Serenity #4, The World Honored One Takes His Seat, HERE. Koan Index HERE.
This Week's Practice: Label Your Thoughts

Start by bringing attention to your breath -- noticing all the sensation of inhaling and of exhaling. Whenever a thought arises, give it a one-word label -- for example, “judgment,” “planning,” “fear,” “remembering,” “re-playing,” etc. Then return to attention to the sensations of breathing.


Raven 120: Where are They?

Sixty-one episodes ago, in #59, Gray Wolf asked Brown Bear about dedicating sutras to the enlightenment of bushes and grasses.

It is not difficult to mouth the words, "all things are myself." But do you remember it when asked where the trees are?

Saying it is one thing, showing it is another, knowing that you are showing it regardless is another.

Case
One evening Owl said, "When Brown Bear visited us, Gray Wolf asked her about the dedication of our sutras to the enlightenment of bushes and grasses. Brown Bear said, 'They are very patient.' I've been musing about this for a long time, and I still don't know what to make of it."Raven asked, "Where are they?"
Owl said, "Bushes and grasses? All around."
Raven said, "Like the moon and birds."
Owl said, "Stones and clouds."
Raven said, "Very good. Now, where are they?"
Owl hooted.
Raven said, "Yes! Yes! On that path."
Verse
The old man in the forest hut,
A dozen kilometers from the nearest road, which is dirt,
And about the same to a power line, or another building,
Lives on nuts and berries, which he cans,
And the occasional package sent by a religious order
To a P.O. box, which he visits when the post office is closed.
Six years without seeing up close a face,
or hearing a voice, of another human.
Beneath the hackberry whose bloom petals mottle his roof
There are no hermits.
Case adapted from Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
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2020-04-21

Raven 119: Vast Indeed

Continuing from the previous segment, in which Porcupine asked whether Zen had a moral basis, we now see Porcupine reflecting on immense vastness. Whatever we can conceive or imagine of the size and multifarious diversity of the world, it is actually much bigger than that -- we are much bigger than that. Also tiny (though I don't think that's why Porcupine wept).

Case
Porcupine came to see Raven after the talk that night and said, "The Blue Planet is immensely vast, isn't it!"
Raven said, "It doesn't stop there."
Porcupine wept.
Raven said, "Vast indeed. Vast indeed."
Verse
Himalayan mountains, your broken heart, bubonic plague.
Kalahari desert, maternal devotion, 100-year-old oak tree.
Sequoia National Forest, honor killings, birds in your vicinity right now.
Great Barrier Reef, all the Aprils of your life, bees and octopuses.
Yangtze River, lovers' ardor, the current pandemic
A million bereaved, a billion, everyone.
Monastic practice, householder practice, whole- and half-hearted practice.
Petty violence and genocidal wars and your lovingkindness.
Vastness never stops.
In the midst of it, something purple.
Case adapted from Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
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2020-04-14

Raven 118: The Moral Basis

Dogen (1200-1253), selecting from earlier sources, instituted the 16 Precepts of Zen: three Refuges, three Pure Precepts, and ten Grave Precepts. The Refuges and the first five Grave Precepts constitute the "Eight Streams of Merit" (Theravada Scripture, Angutarra Nikaya 8.39) common to all branches of Buddhism. The Brahmajala ("Brahma Net") Sutra -- a Mahayana text dating back at least to the 5th century CE -- includes the five Angutarra Nikaya precepts and adds five more to make ten Grave Precepts. The Pure Precepts also come from the Brahmajala Sutra. The 16 precepts are:

Three Refuges:
  • Take refuge in the Buddha
  • Take refuge in the Dharma
  • Take refuge in the Sangha
Three Pure Precepts:
  • Do not create Evil
  • Cultivate Good
  • Benefit Others
Ten Grave Precepts:
  • Respect life – Do not kill
  • Be giving – Do not steal
  • Honor the body – Do not misuse sexuality
  • Manifest truth – Do not lie
  • Proceed clearly – Do not cloud the mind
  • See the perfection – Do not broadcast others' misdeeds or faults
  • Realize self and others as one – Do not praise yourself by comparison with others
  • Give generously – Do not withhold
  • Actualize harmony – Do not vent anger
  • Experience the intimacy of things – Do not defile the Three Treasures
Zen has these precepts, and others (e.g. "The Four Bodhisattva Vows"). A precept is:
"1. a commandment or direction given as a rule of action or conduct. 2. an injunction as to moral conduct; maxim. 3. a procedural directive or rule, as for the performance of some technical operation" (Random House Unabridged Dictionary).
So Zen's precepts articulate the moral component of Zen.

A moral component isn't the same as a moral basis. The basis of Zen is direct experience of oneness, nonseparation, and impermanence. Precepts are upaya ("skillful means") -- tools for our practice.

Some questions for exploring the case below:
1. When Porcupine says, "empty," do you interpret him as agreeing with Raven (that Zen is empty of any moral basis)? Or is he disagreeing with Raven's answer, calling it empty?
2. Relatedly, if Magpie wouldn't say, "empty," do you think that's because Magpie believes Zen does have a moral basis? Or, rather, would it be because Magpie wouldn't see Raven's "none whatsoever" as empty?

Case
Porcupine came by for another special meeting with Raven and asked, "Does Zen have a moral basis?"
Raven said, "None whatsoever."
Porcupine exclaimed, "Empty! Empty!"
Raven said, "That's not what Magpie would say."
Porcupine bowed down and touched his face to the ground.
Raven asked, "Why do you bow?"
Porcupine said, "Magpie is bowing."
Raven put her beak to his ear and said, "See me after the talk tonight."
Verse
The mountain pass is unexpectedly steep and icy.
Or maybe the car keys aren't where I was sure I left them.
Certain people are such blind fools.
The demands of the day surpass reasonableness.
This is me, bowing --
Bowing gratefully to the difficulty.
Case adapted from Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
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2020-04-11

Apr 20 - 26

Spring, week 5

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

https://zoom.us/j/2898507899

This Week's Chants -- Mon Apr 20 - Sun Apr 26. From our Sutra Book HERE
  • Opening: Invocation of Kanzeon, p. 3
  • Genjokoan 1, p. 12
  • Closing: Spring Everywhere, p. 26; Save All the Beings, p. 30
Chant at home along with Meredith & LoraKim -- Main Sutra of the Week, "Genjokoan 1":



Closing: "Spring Everywhere" and "Save All the Beings":



This Week's Reading for Sat Apr 25
  • Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, "Believing in Nothing." Reading Schedule HERE.
This Week's Raven Tale
  • #119, Vast Indeed HERE. Raven Index HERE.
This Week's Koan
  • Blue Cliff Record #92, Book of Serenity #1, The World Honored One Takes His Seat, HERE. Koan Index HERE.
This Week's Practice: Body Scan

Here's Meredith's 10-minute guided body scan. We are, each of us, the entire universe manifested in the form of this particular skin and everything within that skin. It is the spiritual project to be in touch with who we are, starting with this body. As Shitou says in "Song of the Grass-Roof Hermitage": "If you want to know the undying person in the hut, don't separate from this skin-bag here and know." And if we are to know ourselves, know our bodies, befriend our bodies, does it not behoove us to know its names? Hence, this body scan is also a brief review of human anatomy.





2020-04-08

Apr 6 - 12

Spring, week 3

Join me and the BoWZ-Westchester Sangha via Zoom at 10:00 EDT every Saturday morning:

https://zoom.us/j/2898507899

This Week's Practice: Breath Counting.

  • Count each exhale up to 10, then start over at 1.
  • If you lose your place, simple go back to 1.
  • On each exhale, say the number to yourself. 
  • Draw out the word so that it lasts throughout the exhale and the pause between exhale and inhale, and cuts off with the beginning of the inhale ("onnnnnnnnne," "twooooooooooo," "threeeeeeeeeeeeee," etc.)

Chants for Mon Apr 6 - Sun Apr 12
  • Record of Linji, p. 9
  • Heart Sutra, p. 10
Chant along with Meredith!


Opening and Closing for Mon Mar 23 - Sun Apr 19:
  • Opening:Gatha of Atonement, p. 3
  • Closing: The Ship of Compassion, p. 26
See: BoWZ Westchester Sutra Book   ☙   Additional Texts   ☙   Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed.

Reading for Sat Apr 11 (no change from reading for Sat Apr 4):
  • Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, "Emptiness"
See Reading Schedule HERE.

This Week's Raven Tale:
  • #117, Mistakes -- HERE

2020-04-07

Raven 117: Mistakes

Kintsugi ("golden joinery"), is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise." (Wikipedia)
The art of creating our life is a kintsugi art. Where we are broken, we need to repair and heal. Yet we can reclaim our wholeness in a way that shows off where we have been broken, rather than hiding or minimizing it. Life's beauty manifests as mistakes. Life's perfection presents as golden flaws.

Case
Grouse said, "I feel very nervous when I lead our recitation of the sutras."
Raven said, "Mistakes are part of the ritual."
Verse
"There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." -Hamlet, Shakespeare

So stop thinking
Except when it's needed
Which isn't as often as you
think.
Haven't you noticed that
Every turn in the road
That led to something you love
Began with a mistake?
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
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