2018-11-13

Raven 78: Giving

We hear from Grouse today. We haven't heard from Grouse since #44, when she was asking about the good of practice, given that even long-time students and some teachers act selfishly and cause dissension in the community.

Grouse refers to an exchange between Mole and Raven in #32: Mole asked, "I'm wondering what happens at the point of death." Raven sat silently a while, and then said, "I give away my belongings."

Those things that are left -- after giving away belongings, and after death -- those things are your self, you know.

Case
Grouse spoke up at a gathering and asked, "Mole said that a while back you said that you give away your belongings when you die. I've been brooding about this, but it still isn't clear to me."
Raven said, "What isn't clear?"
Grouse said, "Is there anything left?"
Raven said, "Oh, lots: the moon, the wind, the crickets."
Verse
The Long and the Short of It

Belongings belengthen.
What I belong to and
What belongs to me,
Fix my placement,
Post grief-tinged desires,
And stretch me long between.

Moon, wind, and crickets
Draw me up short again.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Raven 77

2018-11-01

Nov 2 - 8

Autumn, week 7
"Whatever we think love is, love often isn't." --Radical Dharma
Saturday Zen: Sat Nov 3, 10:00 - 11:45am
room 24
Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave
White Plains, NY
Practice to be led by Meredith Garmon

Morning Zen. Tue and Thu, 6:00 - 7:15am
Basement Zendo. See HERE.

Chants
For Fri Nov 2 - Fri Nov 8:
  • Song of the Grass Roof Hermitage, p. 16
  • Heart Sutra, p. 14
Opening and Closing for Nov 2 - 29:
  • Opening: Nothing to Do, p. 20
  • Closing: Compassion Unbound, p. 72
See Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed. and
BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule

Reading for Sat Oct 27:
  • Primary Reading: Radical Dharma, "Remembering Love: An Informal Contemplation on Healing," pp. 57-74.
  • Optional Secondary Reading: Thich Nhat Hanh, Old Path White Clouds, Ch. 17, "Pippala Leaf" pp. 114-118.
Reading for next week (Nov 10): Radical Dharma, "Radicalizing Dharma Dreams," pp. 75-88; "It's Not About Love After All," pp. 89-104.

This Week's Koan: Blue Cliff Record #49, Book of Serenity #33, Sansheng's "The Golden Carp Out of the Net" -- HERE.

This Week's Raven Tale: #77, Anger -- HERE.

2018-10-30

Raven 77: Anger

Sometimes anger is petty. Just stare at that anger for a couple minutes, and it goes, "Oh, sorry, never mind" and it slinks away. I'm not saying suppress it. Just look it right in the eye and see what it's made of.

But there is also noble anger: the energy to stand against injustice. You can stare at this anger, and it'll stare you down because it knows it is righteous. This anger is your friend -- giving you the energy fire for standing up for what needs standing up for.

Case
When the community was discussing ethics after zazen one evening, Black Bear remarked, "I have a hard time dealing with my anger."
Raven said, "Check it out afterward."
Black Bear said, "What good will that do?"
Raven said, "It might have been Great Bear's anger."
Verse
When Great Bear's grievance commands redress
The autumn wind in the leaves takes notice.
Coyote thinks of somewhere else to go.
Badger pauses from her digging.
Later, rain washing the hillside
Seems to take greater than usual care.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Raven 76

2018-10-24

Oct 26 - Nov 1

Autumn, week 6
"The deep connection between personal liberation and social transformation is increasingly clear. It is embodied." --Radical Dharma
Saturday Zen: Sat Oct 27, 10:00 - 11:45am
room 24
Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave
White Plains, NY
Practice to be led by Terry Truta.

Morning Zen. Tue and Thu, 6:00 - 7:15am
Basement Zendo. See HERE.

Chants
For Fri Oct 26 - Thu Nov 1:
  • Genjokoan 4, p. 43
  • Yuibutsu Yobutsu 2, 3, 4, p. 43
Opening and Closing for Oct 5 - Nov 1:
  • Opening: The Way I Must Enter + Oneness, pp. 80, 82
  • Closing: Healing is Situated in Love, p. 71
See Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed. and
BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule

Reading for Sat Oct 27:
  • Primary Reading:  Radical Dharma, "Bringing Our Whole Selves: A Theory of Queer Dharma ," pp. 39-56.
  • Optional Secondary Reading: Thich Nhat Hanh, Old Path White Clouds, Ch. 17, "Pippala Leaf" pp. 114-118.
Reading for next week (Nov 3): Radical Dharma, "Remembering Love: An Informal Contemplation on Healing," pp. 57-74..

This Week's Koan: Blue Cliff Record #22, Book of Serenity #24, Xuefeng's Poisonous Snake -- HERE.

This Week's Raven Tale: #76, Gossip -- HERE.

2018-10-23

Raven 76: Gossip

Mockingbird shows up today for the first time. It's not hard to believe that Mockingbird would like to gossip. It's unusual for a mockingbird, though, that he would feel remorse about that.

When early humans lived in bands of about 150 or less, gossip was a primary tool for social cohesion. Despite being sometimes divisive, the practice of monitoring the behavior of various third parties, and moralizing about it with various second parties generally helped keep group members in line. As a social species, it's what we do. That's why it's fun. A group of over 150, however, is too large to monitor and moralize about. Hence, gossip magazines today generally have a list of about 100-150 celebrities they're tracking. Groups larger than 150 need other tools for promoting social cohesion: shared ritual, story-telling (origin myths, morality tales), group music-making -- in a word, religion.

It's all dirt, though, right? Dirt is dirt.

Case
Porcupine was leading an orientation to the practice when Mockingbird dropped in. During the question period he said, "I have a tendency to gossip. I know it can be hurtful, yet I can't seem to stop."
Porcupine said, "It's fun."
Mockingbird said, "Yes, but at the expense of others."
Porcupine said, "Dirt is dirt!"
Verse
Bob fell off the wagon.
Susan lost her job.
Sally's Dan is flunking out.
That Keith is such a slob.

Sympathies and judgment
Served up over tea.
So nice to not have those folks' faults, but
What do they say of me?

So nice to not have faults like those
Except I fear I do.
I share in all those named above
And several others too.

Anxiety is thus sustained,
Throughout the system felt.
Someone, perhaps, must do that job,
But maybe someone else.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Raven 75

2018-10-18

Oct 19-25

Autumn, week 5
"Everything begins by leaving. Homeleaving happens more than once in our lives, and from many different places we once considered home." --angel Kyodo williams
Saturday Zen: Sat Oct 20, 10:00 - 11:45am
room 24
Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave
White Plains, NY

Morning Zen. Tue and Thu, 6:00 - 7:15am
Basement Zendo. See HERE.

Chants
For Fri Oct 19 - Thu Oct 25:
  • Genjokoan 1, 2, 3, p. 41
Opening and Closing for Oct 5 - Nov 1:
  • Opening: The Way I Must Enter + Oneness, pp. 80, 82
  • Closing: Healing is Situated in Love, p. 71
See Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed. and
BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule

Reading for Sat Oct 13:
  • Primary Reading: williams, Owens, Syedullah, Radical Dharma, "The Abolition of Whiteness," by Jasmine Syedullah, and "A Different Drum" by angel Kyodo williams, pp. 15-35.
  • Optional Secondary Reading: Thich Nhat Hanh, Old Path White Clouds, Ch. 17, "Pippala Leaf" pp. 114-118.
Reading for next week (Oct 27): Radical Dharma, "Bringing Our Whole Selves: A Theory of Queer Dharma," pp. 39-56.

This Week's Koan: Blue Cliff Record #5, Xuefeng's "A Grain of Rice" HERE.
This Week's Raven Tale: #75, Vows. HERE.

2018-10-15

Raven 75: Vows

This is Gray Wolf's third appearance. She first appeared in #22, when she asked for an explanation of karma. She showed up again in #59, when she questioned whether bushes and grasses could be enlightened.

 The four Bodhisattva vows:
  • Beings are numberless; I vow to free them.
  • Delusions are inexhaustible; I vow to end them.
  • Dharma gates are boundless; I vow to enter them.
  • Buddha's way is unsurpassable; I vow to embody it.
In the most literal sense, the vows can be kept, and must be kept. Someone making these vows can and must free every single being, end 100% of delusions, enter all of the infinite dharma gates, etc. A tall order!

In another sense, the vows are aspirational. You can't free all the beings, but try to free as many as you can. Continuously work on ending delusions, even though you'll never end them all. Always be watchful for dharma gates, and enter as many as you can. Try to embody parts of the Buddha way.

In a third sense, the vows cannot be kept, even partly. You can never free any beings, can never end a single delusion, or enter a dharma gate or embody any aspect of the Buddha way. Taking the vows is an exercise in humility, a liberating exercise in loosening the grip of the impulse to control.

In a fourth sense, the vows cannot be broken. No matter what you do, your every action in fact frees all the beings, ends all delusions, enters the infinite dharma gates (all of them at once), and embodies the Buddha way.

Raven's final remark in this segment echoes a haiku by Basho (1644-1694):
With awe I beheld
All the new green leaves of spring
Glittering in the sunshine
Case
Gray Wolf seemed to attend meetings against her better judgment. One evening she came by anyway and said, "In every service I renew my vow to save the many beings, but, really, how can I do that?"
Raven said, "It's your precious keepsake."
Mallard asked, "How can a vow be a keepsake?"
Raven said, "It reminds you of a loved one."
Gray Wolf sat back and said nothing further.
Owl spoke up and said, "We also vow to waken to the countless gates of the Great Law. I always thought that vow meant I should study all the teachings, but now I'm not so sure."
Raven said, "See all the new green leaves glittering in the sunshine!"
Verse
The morning sun behind the branches of black leaves
Promises promises
Long since broken, long since fulfilled.
Nothing is more beautiful,
Nothing less.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Raven 74

2018-10-10

Oct 12 - 18

Autumn, week 4
"Dharma didn't just tell me about love and compassion; it provided a method to become love and compassion....Silence became the medium in which I was reborn into a sense of happiness and contentment....In the end my movements have cost me. They have cost me my fear of becoming the person that I want and need to be." --Lama Rod Owens
Saturday Zen: Sat Oct 13, 10:00 - 11:45am
room 24
Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave
White Plains, NY
Practice to be led by Meredith Garmon

Morning Zen. Tue and Thu, 6:00 - 7:15am
Basement Zendo. See HERE.

Chants
For Fri Oct 12 - Thu Oct 18:
  • Song of Realizing the Dao, p. 31
  • Fukanzazengi, p. 45
  • Menju, p. 50
Opening and Closing for Oct 5 - Nov 1:
  • Opening: The Way I Must Enter + Oneness, pp. 80, 82
  • Closing: Healing is Situated in Love, p. 71
See Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed. and
BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule

Reading for Sat Oct 13:
  • Primary Reading: williams, Owens, Syedullah, Radical Dharma, "Remembering in Seven Movements," by Rod Owens, pp. 3-14.
  • Optional Secondary Reading: Thich Nhat Hanh, Old Path White Clouds, Ch. 16, "Was Yasodhara Sleeping?" pp. 110-113.
  • Primary Reading for Next Week (Oct 20): Radical Dharma"The Abolition of Whiteness," by Jasmine Syedullah, and "A Different Drum" by angel Kyodo williams, pp. 15-35.
This Week's Koan: Blue Cliff Record #35, Manjusri's "Threes and Threes." HERE.
This Week's Raven Tale: #74, She Doesn't Know. HERE.

2018-10-08

Raven 74: She Doesn't Know

Lines from the Heart Sutra:
"Form is no other than emptiness; emptiness no other than form.
Form is exactly emptiness; emptiness exactly form.
Sensation, perception, mental reaction, and consciousness are also like this.
All things are essentially empty -- not born, not destroyed; not stained, not pure; without loss, without gain."
Our brains are so full of biases -- confirmation bias, correspondence bias, self-serving bias, belief bias, hindsight bias, etc. Yet this is what allows us to be the social creatures that we are, bonding with and caring about each other. We love our tribe and would be lost without them. But our brains our built to pay a cost in true understanding for the blessings of tribal bonding.

Brown Bear and Raven seem to suggest that we say what we need to say to affirm our vital connections -- but don't believe it. We really don't know. We don't know anything. We are beings built for love, not knowledge -- so don't believe anything you think. "Only don't know" is the way.

Case
Raven took her perch one evening and told the story that a visitor had once come to Brown Bear and asked, "What is the meaning of 'form is no other than emptiness'?"
Brown Bear had replied, "I don't know. It's a line in an old sutra."
When Raven had said this, Owl asked, "Brown Bear knows the sutras very well. How could she say she didn't know?"
Raven said, "She doesn't know."
Owl said, "But she's a great teacher. She's our grandmother in the Great Law."
Raven said, "She really doesn't know."
Verse
What is the meaning of your
"What is the meaning of...?"?
Say more of what is biting you.
I have various potions in my apothecary;
Tell me about your bug, and I'll select
A bottle for you.
They are all placebos, still
The telling is treatment,
And the rituals of care.

It is a brave physician
Who withholds these ministrations,
Avers there is no cure,
And casts the patient out to
Live with the terrifying condition
Of having no disease.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Raven 73

2018-10-03

Oct 5 - 11

Autumn, week 3
"Enlightenment is the ability to give totally in every second. It's not about having some great experience. Such moments may occur, but they don't make an enlightened life." --Joko Beck
Saturday Zen: Sat Oct 6, 10:00 - 11:45am
room 24
Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave
White Plains, NY
Practice to be led by Meredith Garmon

Morning Zen. Tue and Thu, 6:00 - 7:15am
Basement Zendo. See HERE.

Chants
For Fri Oct 5 - Thu Oct 11:
  • Observing the One who is Dim and Dull, p. 19
  • Realizing the Way, p. 19
  • Heart Sutra, p. 14
Opening and Closing for Oct 5 - Nov 1:
  • Opening: The Way I Must Enter + Oneness, pp. 80, 82
  • Closing: Healing is Situated in Love, p. 71
See Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed. and
BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule

Reading for Sat Oct 6:
  • Primary Reading: Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special, last chapter, "Practice is Giving," p. 271-73.
  • Optional Secondary Reading: Thich Nhat Hanh, Old Path White Clouds, Ch. 15, "Forest Ascetic," pp. 100-109.
  • Next Book starts week of Oct 7-13: angel Kyodo williams, Radical Dharma
This Week's Koan: Blue Cliff Record #79, Touzi and "Every Voice Is the Buddha's Voice". HERE.
This Week's Raven Tale: #73, Follow Your Bliss. HERE.

Raven 73: Follow Your Bliss

"Follow your bliss" is Joseph Campbell's phrase. Campbell explained:
"If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Wherever you are — if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time."
To discern your bliss requires sacred space,
"a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen."
Your true "employers" -- the true bosses of your life, in whose service lies your authentic vocation -- is that which is alive in you, simultaneously universal and unique.

Think of something you do -- something that is both as ordinary and as magnificently special as a robin singing in an oak tree. That's it. That's your bliss. It might not have seemed like much, but that's it. Follow it.

Case
Grandma was chatting with Turkey at Vinecot, when Granddaughter made a surprise visit. That evening after supper, when they had caught up with each other's news, Granddaughter said, "Now that I've finished school, I don't know what I will do next."
Grandma said, "Follow your bliss."
Granddaughter said, "That sounds selfish."
Grandma said, "Your employers don't all have desks and files."
Next evening, Turkey asked Raven about Grandma's advice.
Raven said, "It's like Brown Bear said: 'The Robin sings in the oak tree; the finch sings in the madrone.'" [See Raven 5]
Turkey did not respond.
Woodpecker asked, "Aren't they distractions?"
Raven asked, "From what?"
Turkey seemed to come to herself, and gobbled.
Raven said, "Like that."
Verse
What makes a distraction?
The brain doing something,
Then thinking it shouldn't have?
I'm not saying your inner moralizer
Might not have a point,
just that maybe there's
Another angle.
What the brain did,
It did pursuing
its need and bliss.
Distraction isn't following
the wrong thing
But following
At a distance.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Raven 72

2018-09-26

Sep 28 - Oct 4

Autumn, week 2
"True healing happens when we go into our own pain so deeply that we see it is not just our pain, but everyone's pain. It's immensely moving and supportive to discover that my pain is not private to me. Practice helps us to see that the whole universe is in pain." --Joko Beck
Saturday Zen: Sat Sep 29, 10:00 - 11:45am
room 24
Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave
White Plains, NY
Practice to be led by Meredith Garmon

Morning Zen. Tue and Thu, 6:00 - 7:15am
Basement Zendo. See HERE.

Chants
For Fri Sep 28 - Thu Oct 4:
  • Heart of True Entrusting, p. 28
Opening and Closing for Sep 6 - Oct 4:
  • Opening: Aspiration Prayer, p. 11
  • Closing: Hope in the Dark, p. 71
See Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed. and
BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule

Reading for Sat Sep 29:
  • Primary Reading: Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special, Ch. 38, "Wandering in the Desert," p. 267-70.
  • Optional Secondary Reading: Thich Nhat Hanh, Old Path White Clouds, Ch. 14, "Crossing the Ganga," pp. 95-99.
  • Next Book starts Oct 13: angel Kyodo williams, Radical Dharma
This Week's
  • Raven Tale: #72, Mosquito. HERE.
  • Koan: Gateless Gate #3, Jinhua's One Finger (longer version). HERE.

2018-09-25

Raven 72: Mosquito

An exercise: Imagine a mild, bearable discomfort -- like a mosquito biting, say, or waiting for a bus in the cold when you didn't wear a heavy enough coat. Now reflect on the beauty and wonder of that very moment of discomfort. Love the annoyance. All the mystery of the universe is right there in that moment. Don't you feel it?

With the mosquito's proboscis, Raven moved from "thought I understood" to "at last able to appreciate the mystery." It's not that she hadn't understood before. It's that appreciating the mystery is different from understanding a line.

Case
​One night after a meeting, the Tallspruce community lingered in the dark under the stars, and Raven reminisced about her time with Brown Bear.
"I remember," she said, "one day when I wasn't feeling well, and Brown Bear Roshi had me rest in her cave. Somehow it was a special gathering place for mosquitoes. One of them suspended herself before my face. She was almost not there -- so fragile, her long threadlike legs hanging down motionless. I marveled that she was a living being with appetites and incentive, yet hardly more than gossamer."
Raven continued, "When we chant the Heart Sutra, we recite, 'Form is no other than emptiness; emptiness no other than form.' Sometime earlier, when I was looking up at the night sky, I thought I understood that line, but when I was resting in Brown Bear's lair and I felt that mosquito sink her long proboscis in my face, I was at last able to appreciate the mystery."
Verse
The package deal of appetites and incentive --
Hunger-satiation, fear-security,
Lust-orgasm -- arrives as advertised,
Home delivered, and throughout the neighborhood,
Sensations of
Mosquito bites, tea, sky, paper cuts
Thrown in, no extra charge.
The promise of essence, independent and abiding,
is never kept, nor was ever made.
Read again the fine print,
The fine, fine print.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Raven 71

2018-09-20

Sep 21 - 27

Autumn, week 1
"Dorothy realized that what she had been seeking all her life was simply her life itself: the people, the house, the rooms. All were the face of God. If we really saw that, we wouldn't torture ourselves and each other as we do. We're unkind; we're manipulative; we're dishonest. If we saw that this very life we lead is the face of God itself, we would not be able to behave in such ways -- not because of any commandment or prohibition, but just because we see what life is." --Joko Beck
Saturday Zen: Sat Sep 22, 10:00 - 11:45am
room 24
Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave
White Plains, NY
Practice to be led by Meredith Garmon

Morning Zen. Tue and Thu, 6:00 - 7:15am
Basement Zendo. See HERE.

Chants
For Fri Sep 21 - Thu Sep 27:
  • Longer Precepts, p. 63
Opening and Closing for Sep 6 - Oct 4:
  • Opening: Aspiration Prayer, p. 11
  • Closing: Hope in the Dark, p. 71
See Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed. and
BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule

Reading for Sat Sep 22:
  • Primary Reading: Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special, Ch. 37, "Dorothy and the Locked Door," p. 258-266.
  • Optional Secondary Reading: Thich Nhat Hanh, Old Path White Clouds, Ch. 13, "Beginning Spiritual Practice," pp. 87-94.
  • Next Book starts Oct 13: angel Kyodo williams, Radical Dharma
This Week's
  • Raven Tale: #71, Not Helping. HERE.
  • Koan: Blue Cliff Record #19, Book of Serenity #84, Jinhua's One Finger. HERE.

2018-09-17

Raven 71: Not Helping

The cowbird, according to the Cornell Ornithology Lab, "is a brood parasite, meaning that it lays its eggs in nests of other species." Apparently, cowbirds don't have a choice about this -- if they couldn't get other birds to feed their hatchlings, cowbirds simply wouldn't be able to reproduce.

One hesitates to moralize about the strategies that emerged from natural selection -- but, it's a metaphor. What's to be done about the "parasites" who maybe do have a choice? How do we know if they really have a choice? What does compassion call for?

Case
After a talk by Raven about the precepts, Woodpecker said, "The cowbird lays her egg in the wren's nest, and the two wrens have to hustle to feed the cowbird's baby as well as their own. I don't see why the wrens stand for it, especially since the cowbird's baby is a lot bigger than theirs and has a huge appetite. Maybe the wrens are really bodhisattvas, selflessly devoted to helping others."

Raven said, "They aren't helping the cowbirds."
Verse
Upaya: "skillfull means" --
When to step in, or up, or forward?
Or out, or down, or back?
Zazen doesn't answer these questions.
It's possible it helps one
Remember to ask them,
Or approach them less controlled by fears.
It's possible it doesn't.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Raven 70