2019-03-16

Mar 11 - 17

Winter, week 12
"A true teacher possesses ability beyond the ordinary, a spirit surpassing the commonplace. Not clinging to personal views, he or she does not get bogged down in emotions. Action and understanding are in agreement. This is an authentic teacher." --Dogen
Saturday Zen: Sat Mar 16, 10:00a - noon
room 24
Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave
White Plains, NY
Practice to be led by Meredith Garmon

Morning Zen. Tue - Fri, 6:00-7:15am, at the Parsonage, Basement Zendo. SEE HERE.

Chants for Mon Mar 11 - Sun Mar 17:
  • Compassionate Heart of Wisdom, p. 15
  • Song of Zazen, p. 17
  • Great Doubt, p. 18
Opening and Closing for Mon Feb 25 - Sun Mar 24:
  • Opening: This World of Dew, p. 35; Blinded by Passions, p. 40
  • Closing: To Change Every Moment, p. 74
See: Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed.   ☙   Supplement   ☙   BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule

Reading for Sat Mar 16:
  • Primary Reading: Koun Yamada, Zen: The Authentic Gate, Ch. 7, "Finding an Authentic Teacher," pp. 91-96.
  • Optional Secondary Reading: Thich Nhat Hanh, Old Path White Clouds, Ch. 35, "Early Morning Sunshine," p. 230
For subsequent weeks (through May 25): See Schedule for Reading.

This Week's Raven Tale: #95, What Is Mind? -- HERE

2019-03-11

Raven 95: What Is Mind?

Grandma was in #63-#68. Then Grandma and Granddaughter together were in #73 (where Grandma told Granddaughter to follow her bliss) and #80 (where they discussed reading).

Dogen (1200-1253) said, "Mind is no other than mountains and rivers and the great wide earth, the sun and the moon and the stars."
When asked "What is Buddha?" Mazu (709-88) answered, "Mind is Buddha." (But Mazu later said, "There is neither mind nor Buddha.")

As for whether anything will do, it's like what the life of your as-yet-unborn grandchild will be about. Although it could be anything, not just anything will do. What doesn't fit doesn't fit.

Case
Sitting around after supper one night, Granddaughter looked up from a book she was reading and asked, "What is mind?"
Grandma said, "Kitty is crying for food."
Granddaughter asked, "Do you mean anything will do?"
Grandma said, "No."
Granddaughter waited for more, but Grandma had returned to her knitting. She sighed and got up up to feed he cat.
Later, Turkey reported this to Raven and asked her opinion. Raven croaked, and then croaked again.
Turkey asked, "Will that do it?"
Raven said, "Apparently not."
Verse
It's like this, I've heard.
The brain -- yours, mine, a beetle's,
A dolphin's, a dog's, a bacterium's,
a turtle's, a penguin's, a carp's --
Extends through the nervous system,
And to the body, and to the world
That tickles the senses,
To fire motor neurons, or something,
To tickle back.

This being so --
The world being made of micro and macro
Tickle-loops everywhere, endless and beginningless --
Where is mind to be found?
Where not?
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
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2019-03-08

Mar 4 - 10

Winter, week 11
"The essential matter in just sitting is to just sit, with the mind as taut as a bowstring at all times. Sit just sitting as if you were locked in mortal combat with a master swordsman: if we let up our guard for even an instant, the opponent's sword will come down upon our heads. There isn't even a split second available for random thoughts." --Yamada Koun
Saturday Zen: Sat Mar 9, 10:00a - noon
room 24
Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave
White Plains, NY
Practice to be led by Meredith Garmon

Morning Zen. Tue - Fri, 6:00-7:15am, at the Parsonage, Basement Zendo. SEE HERE.

Chants for Mon Mar 4 - Sun Mar 10:
  • Bodhisattva's Vow, p. 22
  • Harmony of Relative and Absolute, p. 23
  • Fulfilling the Buddha Way, p. 40
Opening and Closing for Mon Feb 25 - Sun Mar 24:
  • Opening: This World of Dew, p. 35; Blinded by Passions, p. 40
  • Closing: To Change Every Moment, p. 74
See: Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed.   ☙   Supplement   ☙   BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule

Reading for Sat Mar 9 (same readings as for last week):
  • Primary Reading: Koun Yamada, Zen: The Authentic Gate, Ch. 6b, "Koan Practice and Just Sitting," 2nd half, pp. 76-89.
  • Optional Secondary Reading: Thich Nhat Hanh, Old Path White Clouds, Ch. 34, "Reunion," p. 222.
For subsequent weeks (through May 25): See Schedule for Reading.

This Week's Raven Tale: #94, Intimate -- HERE
This Week's Koan: Gateless Gate #48, Book of Serenity #61: Yuezhou Qianfeng's One Way -- HERE

2019-03-06

Raven 94: Intimate

Badger was among Raven's first students (along with Porcupine, Woodpecker, Grouse, Owl, and Black Bear). In previous episodes, Badger has asked "How can I get rid of my ego?" (#15), "What is the purpose of practice after all?" (#24), "Is there really something to understand beyond the way to be a better person?" (#42), "How can I get rid of my passions?" (#56), and "What is the self?" (#85).

Raven has been continually sharing her realization. What did Badger think she was doing?

Case
One evening Badger asked, "What's realization like?"
Raven said, "Intimate."
Badger asked, "Can you share it?"
Raven said, "Where have you been?" Fluffing her feathers, she turned away, muttering to herself, "Ah, such as it is."
Verse
The pencil on my desk offers its intimacy,
Shares with me its realization, bare naked.
Likewise the papers and mug, the hatrack in the corner;
Likewise outside the trees, bees, squirrels, birds, grass, pavement;
Likewise the conspecifics with whom I conversed;
Likewise the masters at whose feet I sat.
Where
Have I been?
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
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2019-02-27

Feb 25 - Mar 3

Winter, week 10
"The essential matter in just sitting is to just sit, with the mind as taut as a bowstring at all times. Sit just sitting as if you were locked in mortal combat with a master swordsman: if we let up our guard for even an instant, the opponent's sword will come down upon our heads. There isn't even a split second available for random thoughts." --Yamada Koun
Saturday Zen: Sat Mar 2, 10:00a - noon
room 24
Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave
White Plains, NY
Practice to be led by Meredith Garmon

Morning Zen. Tue - Fri, 6:00-7:15am, at the Parsonage, Basement Zendo. SEE HERE.

Chants for Mon Feb 25 - Sun Mar 3:
  • Days Like Lightning, p. 61
  • Heart Sutra, p. 14
Opening and Closing for Mon Feb 25 - Sun Mar 24:
  • Opening: This World of Dew, p. 35; Blinded by Passions, p. 40
  • Closing: To Change Every Moment, p. 74
See: Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed.   ☙   Supplement   ☙   BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule

Reading for Sat Mar 2:
  • Primary Reading: Koun Yamada, Zen: The Authentic Gate, Ch. 6b, "Koan Practice and Just Sitting," 2nd half, pp. 76-89.
  • Optional Secondary Reading: Thich Nhat Hanh, Old Path White Clouds, Ch. 34, "Reunion," p. 222.
For subsequent weeks (through May 18): See Schedule for Reading.

This Week's Raven Tale: #93, The Perfection of Character -- HERE
This Week's Koan: Gateless Gate #46, Book of Serenity #79: Stepping from a 100-foot pole -- HERE


Raven 93: The Perfection of Character

This is Raccoon's first appearance. And we haven't had a mention of Moose Roshi since way back in #3, when Raven was just starting out and visiting a number of teachers (including also Jackrabbit Roshi and Prairie Dog Roshi) before settling down with Brown Bear.

Practice is for perfecting our character. And our character is already perfected. Practice is about remembering and living from that fact. This is transformative. In fact, it's the most radical transformation possible. It changes you into what you've always been.

Case
Raccoon was a student of Moose Roshi at Cedarford, but he visited the Tallspruce community occasionally.
One day Raven invited him to have a snack and asked, "What does Moose Roshi teach?"
Raccoon said, "The practice of Zen is the perfection of character."
Raven said, "Transformation."
Raccoon said, "The Zen student trims the dead branches. It's the pigeon who can do the actual job."
Verse
The Will, Illusory Anyway

It's grace all the way down,
Even the pain and grief bits,
And, too, the wanting and striving bits --
All the doings my acquaintances call Meredith's,
In praise or in blame.

On my cushion, of a morning,
The world slowly lightening, there am I,
Trimming some dead branches, maybe,
Culling, weeding, making room
For something else to "do the actual job" --

Which it does, haphazardly,
And mentions, by the by,
That the way-preparing, garden-tending, discipline
Of hospitality to whatever guest may come --
The practice and intentions that seem of my making --

Come also from something else --
Something that watches, and sometimes whispers
It's grace all the way down.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
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2019-02-19

Feb 18-24

Winter, week 9
"Each thing is the complete and perfect expression of our True Self and of the ultimate truth of the universe. Sun, moon, stars, every tree and blade of grass, and every action, large and subtle -- there isn't one of these that is not a complete revelation of the scenery of the essential world." --Yamada Koun
Saturday Zen: Sat Feb 23, 10:00a - noon
room 24
Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave
White Plains, NY
Practice to be led by Meredith Garmon

Morning Zen. Tue - Fri, 6:00-7:15am, at the Parsonage, Basement Zendo. SEE HERE.

Chants for Mon Feb 18 - Sun Feb 24:
  • 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 Mon Jan 28 - Sun Feb 24:
  • Opening: Seeking with Empty Hands, p. 24; Bodhisattva's Prayer, p. 32
  • Closing: Sending-and-Receiving, p. 74
See: Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed.   ☙   Supplement   ☙   BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule

Reading for Sat Feb 23:
  • Primary Reading: Koun Yamada, Zen: The Authentic Gate, Ch. 6a, "Koan Practice and Just Sitting," 1st half, pp. 67-76.
  • Optional Secondary Reading: Thich Nhat Hanh, Old Path White Clouds, Ch. 33, "Beauty That Does Not Fade," p. 216.
For subsequent weeks (through May 18): See Schedule for Reading.

This Week's Raven Tale: #92, Attainment -- HERE
This Week's Koan: Gateless Gate #12, Ruiyan Calls Himself "Master" -- HERE

2019-02-18

Raven 92: Attainment

FDR famously told us, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." But that's a lot to fear! Fear is powerful and not easily subdued.

In an opposite -- yet similarly paradoxical -- vein, we might say that we have nothing to attain except the awareness that we have nothing to attain. But that's a lot to attain!

Then there's remembering that we have nothing to attain. Even if we attain a moment of the awareness, it is easily soon forgotten. Attaining a life of continual remembrance that we have nothing to attain -- that's even harder to attain. Yet...there's nothing at all to attain. Never has been.

The verse by Keizan Jokin (1268-1325) for Denkoroku case #41 (translated by John Cook) makes the point:
Seeking it oneself with empty hands
You return with empty hands;
In that place where fundamentally nothing is acquired,
You really acquire it.
Alternative translations of the last two lines include Thomas Cleary's: "Where there is fundamentally not attainment, /After all one attains." And Hubert Nearman's: "Since, from the first, there was nothing to realize, /now, being satisfied, I have realized! (tr. Hubert Nearman)

Case
That same evening Owl said, "I've heard that you should not try to attain anything. What do you think?"
Raven said, "Not attain anything? Then what are you doing here?"
Owl said, "I think the idea is that we're Buddhas already, so there's nothing to attain."
Raven said, "An attained being said that."

Verse
One eye sees the effortlessness,
   of mountain, river, hackberry and elm
The other eye sees the minute and vast efforts
   of the earth pushing up a mountain,
   of water pushing a path around every rise,
   of photosynthesizing leaves, nutrient-grabbing roots,
      and a trillion busy cells.
Depth perception takes two angles of view.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
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2019-02-12

Feb 11 - 17

Winter, week 8
"If even for a short time one sits erect in meditative absorption and impresses the buddha seal upon the three sources of karma -- physical, verbal, and mental actions -- everything in the world of things will become the buddha seal and all space will become enlightenment." --Dogen
Saturday Zen: Sat Feb 16, 10:00 a- 11:45am
room 24
Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave
White Plains, NY
Practice to be led by Meredith Garmon

Morning Zen. Tue - Fri, 6:00-7:15am, at the Parsonage, Basement Zendo. SEE HERE.

Chants for Mon Feb 11 - Sun Feb 17:
  • Unending Truth, p. 36
  • Facing Everything, p. 36
  • The Misunderstanding of Many Lifetimes, p. 37
  • Self and Other the Same, p. 37
  • Field of Boundless Emptiness, p. 37
Opening and Closing for Mon Jan 28 - Sun Feb 24:
  • Opening: Seeking with Empty Hands, p. 24; Bodhisattva's Prayer, p. 32
  • Closing: Sending-and-Receiving, p. 74
See: Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed.   ☙   Supplement   ☙   BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule

Reading for Sat Feb 16:
  • Primary Reading: Koun Yamada, Zen: The Authentic Gate, Ch. 5, "Types of Zen Practice," pp. 59-66.
  • Optional Secondary Reading: Thich Nhat Hanh, Old Path White Clouds, Ch. 32, "The Finger Is Not the Moon, p. 211.
For subsequent weeks (through May 18): See Schedule for Reading.

This Week's Raven Tale: #91, Blasphemy -- HERE
This Week's Koan: Book of Serenity #97, Emperor Tongguang's Helmet Hood -- HERE

2019-02-11

Raven 91: Blasphemy

Blasphemy. For the ancient Hebrews, blasphemy was the crime of undermining the rule of YHWH over the Jews, and was thus analogous to treason. Blasphemy was, until recently, generally forbidden by law in the US and Europe. Blasphemy was understood to be:
"denying the being or providence of God, contumelious reproaches of our Saviour Christ, profane scoffing at the Holy Scripture, or exposing it to contempt or ridicule" (Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, 1769)
or
"maliciously reviling God or religion" (Kent, Commentaries on American Law, 1826)
or
"speaking evil of the Deity with an impious purpose to derogate from the Divine Majesty and to alienate the minds of others from the love and reverence of God" (Lemuel Shaw, 1781-1861, Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court)
Raven declines to define the term, providing instead an example.

Case
One evening Woodpecker asked, "What is blasphemy?"
Raven said, "The Buddha Macaw was perfectly enlightened."

Verse
Blasphemy and idolatry:
besetting sicknesses.
The cure for each
is the other.

Friend, don't fall for that presumption
that perfection is crystalline,
As fixed as Keats' Urn.
No, the perfection of a thing
Is its motion, its dance of
Flourishing, fruition, aging, decay --
Or it's nothing.
Gotama's perfection was a path.
Jesus died in pain when
nailed in place.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
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2019-02-05

Feb 4 - 10

Winter, week 7
"If we go on practicing assiduously, our illusions will decrease of themselves and the marvelous virtue of buddha nature will reveal itself in us. This practice is what we call 'personalization of the Supreme Way.'" --Koun Yamada
Saturday Zen: Sat Feb 9, 10:00 a- 11:45am
room 24
Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave
White Plains, NY
Practice to be led by Meredith Garmon

Morning Zen. Tue - Fri, 6:00-7:15am, at the Parsonage, Basement Zendo. SEE HERE.

Chants for Mon Feb 4 - Sun Feb 10:
  • Song of the Grass-Roof Hermitage, p. 16
  • Heart Sutra, p. 14
Opening and Closing for Mon Jan 28 - Sun Feb 24:
  • Opening: Seeking with Empty Hands, p. 24; Bodhisattva's Prayer, p. 32
  • Closing: Sending-and-Receiving, p. 74
See: Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed.   ☙   Supplement   ☙   BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule

Reading for Sat Feb 9:
  • Primary Reading: Koun Yamada, Zen: The Authentic Gate, Ch. 4b, "The Three Great Aims of Zen," 2nd half, pp. 49-57.
  • Optional Secondary Reading: Thich Nhat Hanh, Old Path White Clouds, Ch. 31, "I Will Return in the Spring," p. 203.
For subsequent weeks (through May 18): See Schedule for Reading.

This Week's Raven Tale: #90, Method -- HERE
This Week's Koan: Gateless Gate #5, Xiangyan's Man Up a Tree -- HERE

2019-02-04

Raven 90: Method

In 1820, John Keats (1795-1821) wrote to fellow poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) admonishing Shelley to
"be more of an artist, and ‘load every rift’ of your subject with ore. The thought of such discipline must fall like cold chains upon you, who perhaps never sat with your wings furl’d for six Months together."
"Load every rift of your subject with ore" alludes to a line in Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser (1552-1599):
"And with riche metall loaded every rifte."
Keats meant that a poem ought to pack every line dense with meaning and layers of nuance. Raven's variation -- "stick kernels in every cranny" -- suggests that a teacher and mentor find teachable moments everywhere and in everything.

Case
Porcupine began special consultations with Raven.
One day he asked, "What is your method?"
Raven said, "Evident."
Porcupine said, "You purvey the obvious?"
Raven said, "Stick kernels in every cranny."
Verse
I.
Nature's method is none.
Profligacy is not methodical.
Survival of the fittest
Might be a method if nature
Had a measure of fitness
Other than surviving.
Survival of those that survive
Is not a method.

II.
The stars of Orion know about method, and what is evident.
The broad, slow river knows.
Though there are no crannies, and no kernels with which to fill them,
They are always full.
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
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2019-01-29

Jan 28 - Feb 3

Winter, week 6
"One of the basic prerequisites for Zen experience is for the practice to become single-mindedly pure. . . . To practice true Zen meditation means to sit without the slightest thought about awakening. We must put aside all other matters and throw our entire mind and body into our practice." --Koun Yamada
Saturday Zen: Sat Feb 2, 10:00 - 11:45am
room 24
Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave
White Plains, NY
Practice to be led by Meredith Garmon

Morning Zen. Tue - Fri, 6:00-7:15am, at the Parsonage, Basement Zendo. SEE HERE.

Chants for Mon Jan 28 - Sun Feb 3:
  • Actualizing Fundamental Reality, part 4, p. 43
  • Only Buddha and Buddha, parts 2, 3, 4, p. 47
Opening and Closing for Mon Jan 28 - Sun Feb 24:
  • Opening: Seeking with Empty Hands, p. 24; Bodhisattva's Prayer, p. 32
  • Closing: Sending-and-Receiving, p. 74
See: Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed.   ☙   Supplement   ☙   BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule

Reading for Sat Feb 3:
  • Primary Reading: Koun Yamada, Zen: The Authentic Gate, Ch. 4a, "The Three Great Aims of Zen," 1st half, pp. 39-49.
  • Optional Secondary Reading: Thich Nhat Hanh, Old Path White Clouds, Ch. 30, "Bamboo Forest," p. 193.
For subsequent weeks (through May 18): See Schedule for Reading.

This Week's Raven Tale: #89, Honesty -- HERE
This Week's Koan: Blue Cliff Record #66, Yantou Laughed Loudly -- HERE
Video: Ryoun Yamada (son of Koun Yamada) discusses Zen practice and the Zen Center of the Phillipines -- HERE (4:56)



2019-01-27

Raven 89: Honesty

To get more muscles, use your muscles; acting confident helps you feel confident; per Aristotle, to become courageous, do courageous things. This is not about fooling others or yourself or pretending you know what you don't. It's about character formation, not expertise development. It's about being intentional and practicing it until it gets easier. Feeling compassionate may be the cause of an act of compassion -- or it may be the result.

Case
Black Bear came to a meeting late and said, "I'm feeling frazzled after dealing with my cubs. What if I don't feel compassionate?"
Raven said, "Fake it."
"That doesn't seem honest," said Black Bear.
"It doesn't begin with honesty," said Raven.
Verse
The stream occluded or not;
The fox hungry or fed,
The star shining steadily or exploding nova,
See how they never lie?
How they tell nothing but the truth,
Never concerning themselves with honesty?
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
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2019-01-23

Jan 21 - 27

Winter, week 5
"By awakening to our self-nature, by awakening to both emptiness and form, we come to peace. This is true Buddhist salvation. However, we must wipe away all traces of enlightenment as well, and then forget that we have wiped them away. And that practice continues endlessly. This is the Buddha Way." --Koun Yamada
Saturday Zen: Sat Jan 26, 10:00 - 11:45am
room 24
Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave
White Plains, NY
Practice to be led by Meredith Garmon

Morning Zen. Tue - Fri, 6:00-7:15am, at the Parsonage, Basement Zendo. SEE HERE.

Chants for Mon Jan 21 - Sun Jan 27:
  • Actualizing Fundamental Reality, parts 1-3, p. 41
Opening and Closing for Mon Dec 31 - Sun Jan 27:
  • Opening: The Fruit of the Bodhisattva Way, p. 21
  • Closing: Who Owns the Weather, p. 73
See: Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed.   ☙   Supplement   ☙   BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule

Reading for Sat Jan 26:
  • Primary Reading: Koun Yamada, Zen: The Authentic Gate, Ch. 3b, "Principle of Salvation in Zen Buddhism," 2nd half, pp. 28-37.
  • Optional Secondary Reading: Thich Nhat Hanh, Old Path White Clouds, Ch. 29, "Dependent Co-Arising," p. 185.
For subsequent weeks (through May 18): See Schedule for Reading.

This Week's Raven Tale: #88, Unhappy -- HERE
This Week's Koan: Book of Serenity #43, Luoshan's "Appearing and Disappearing" -- HERE
Video: Kathleen Reiley talks about Koun Yamada (1907-1989) -- HERE (5:55)