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
I.
Don't fall for it, friend,
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 when
nailed in place.

II.
Blasphemy and idolatry.
Cure each other --
And leave you just as sick.
Choose your poison.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Raven 90

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.
She doesn't. Hence:
Survival of those that survive.
Tautologies aren't methods.
Nature's method is none.

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
Raven 89

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
Raven 88

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)

Raven 88: Unhappy

The waning gibbous moon, partially behind a cloud, the evening cool grass, blossoms on a tree along the walk, the glass of water sitting on the table -- are answers to all you could ask.

Case
Raven met Grouse moping around one day and asked, "How's it going, Grouse?"
Grouse said, "I'm so unhappy."
Raven said, "What do you think might make you happy?"
Grouse said, "I don't know. I don't ask for much."
Raven said, "Way too much."
Verse
How happy is the little stone --Emily Dickinson
the trees . . . give off such hints of gladness --Mary Oliver

Mary's trees, Emily's little stone,
Cheerful stars, a merry brook,
Shy gemstones, humble dirt,
Lugubrious rain, angry thunder,
Cruel frost or oppressive heat
Vengeful flood or punishing drought
Sanguine dawn and pensive dusk --

Ask any of them, "What do you want?"
They have nothing to answer.
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Raven 87

2019-01-13

Jan 14 - 20

Winter, week 4
"We ourselves are nothing but perfect, complete, infinite, and absolute existence. And Zen aims to realize this condition not through the intellect but in living experience." --Koun Yamada
Saturday Zen: Sat Jan 19, 10:00 - 11:45am
room 24
Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave
White Plains, NY
Practice to be led by TBA

Morning Zen. CANCELLED THIS WEEK.

Chants
For Mon Jan 14 - Sun Jan 20:
  • Song of Realizing the Dao, p. 30
  • Fukenzazengi, p. 45
  • Menju, p. 50
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 19:
  • Primary Reading: Koun Yamada, Zen: The Authentic Gate, Ch. 3a, "Principle of Salvation in Zen Buddhism," 1st half, pp. 19-27.
  • Optional Secondary Reading: Thich Nhat Hanh, Old Path White Clouds, Ch. 28, "Palm Forest," p. 180.
For subsequent weeks (through May 18): See Schedule for Reading.

This Week's Raven Tale: #87, Hearing -- HERE

See Youtube video of Sanbo Zen teachers talking about Zen (4:56): HERE.

Raven 87: Hearing

I had an elementary school teacher -- several probably -- who said, "Don't just hear, LISTEN!" She meant for us to pay focused attention to her words and their meaning. If your elementary teachers were like mine, you grew up valuing listening and devaluing hearing.

Raven takes the opposite approach. She distinguishes hearing from listening in pretty much the same way my elementary school teachers did -- but Raven draws a different moral from that distinction. What do you think?

Case
Raven took her perch and said, "Things just come in. Do you listen, or do you hear? When you listen, you are paying attention to something out there, but when you hear, the sounds just come in. You are sitting there with your ears open, and the dove calls out. That sound defines you. Once you are defined like that, the cedars can define you, the faraway skunk can define you."
Woodpecker asked, "Is that realization?"
Raven said, "Let yourself hear the dove."
Verse
Let yourself hear the dove
Let your mouth eat
Let your fingers read my face
Let your feet count the blessings of toes
Let your ribs hold galaxies
Let your tongue perceive the silence
   inside its words
Let your fears embrace the frightened
Let your house slide on shifting sand
Let the stones be igneous, sedimentary, metamorphic
   and all yours
Let rivers flow through your veins unto the sea
Let yourself smell the sunrise
   and taste the sunset
Let yourself love
Let yourself hear the dove
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Raven 86

2019-01-11

Jan 7 - 13

Winter, week 3
"The experience attained through Zen practice is neither thought nor philosophy nor religion. It is merely a fact. And, strange as it may seem, the experience of that fact has the power to free us from the agonies and pains of the world." --Koun Yamada
Saturday Zen: Sat Jan 12, 10:00 - 11:45am
room 24
Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave
White Plains, NY
Practice to be led by Meredith Garmon

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

Chants
For Mon Jan 7 - Sun Jan 13:
  • Observing the One Who is Dim and Dull, p. 19
  • Realizing the Zen Way, p. 19
  • Heart Sutra, p. 14
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 12:
  • Primary Reading: Koun Yamada, Zen: The Authentic Gate, Ch. 2, "The Zen View," pp. 11-17.
  • Optional Secondary Reading: Thich Nhat Hanh, Old Path White Clouds, Ch. 27, "All Dharmas Are on Fire," p. 174.
For subsequent weeks (through May 18): See Schedule for Reading.

Questions
  1. How would you explain what Yamada means by the distinction between "faith-based spirituality" and "experience-based spirituality"?
  2. Yamada says, "awakening is the realization that the content of both subject and object is empty and one, and that this empty-oneness is none other than the constantly changing phenomenal world of form." What does this mean?
  3. Yamada says, "The principal aim of Buddhism is to solve the problem of life and death." He then says "The answer is that the content of life and death is totally empty; their true form is no form." How does that solve the problem?
This Week's Raven Tale: #86, The Essence -- HERE

See Youtube video of Sanbo Zen teachers talking about Zen (4:56): HERE.

2019-01-10

Raven 86: The Essence

You may recall, as told in #1, that Jackrabbit was the first teacher Raven visited. Asked what the Buddha Macaw realized when she saw the morning star, Jackrabbit said, "the truth of mutually dependent arising." It turns out Raven picked up a few other teachings from Jackrabbit before moving on to Prairie Dog.

When Zen teachers of old did the repetition thing (as in the case below -- albeit with a little twist), several things are probably going on. One of them is that repetition renders the words "flavorless" -- a strategy for not getting all wrapped up in the words and concepts. It shifts the emphasis from meaning to doing: saying these words is just something we do. It's a reminder that there is no meaning for words outside of the context of what we do with them.

"The mind is compassion and its essence has no qualities." Show me how you live that!

Case
One evening Owl asked, "I've heard that Jackrabbit Roshi said that the mind has no qualities and its essence is compassion. What do you think of that?"
Raven said, "The mind is compassion and its essence has no qualities."
Verse
Compassion is not a quality.
I put it to you,
Didactically, as if it were
A thing you could believe
Or that I could.

Yesterday I did, and tomorrow will again,
Speak of the quality of compassion --
Of a person, or an act --
As if compassion were a moral virtue
That might not have been there,
That could disappear in a mean moment,
That the discovery of ulteriority
   could render fraudulent.

Today I tell the truth:
Compassion is ontological, not ethical.
It is the stuff reality is made of.

I say it
As if you should be taking notes,
As if I should apologize.

I say it, and outside is the winter mountain,
Made of rock and soil, trees and snow.
No qualities there either,
I whisper. Or was that you?
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Raven 85

2019-01-02

Win. 2: Dec 31 - Jan 6

Winter, week 2
"Life could be called a display of all he different forms of suffering and anxiety. Yet most of us make no serious attempt to confront our anxiety head on." --Koun Yamada
Saturday Zen: Sat Jan 5, 10:00 - 11:45am
room 24
Community UU
468 Rosedale Ave
White Plains, NY
Practice to be led by Meredith Garmon

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

Chants
For Mon Dec 31 - Sun Jan 6:
  • Heart of True Entrusting, p. 78
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 5:
  • Primary Reading: Koun Yamada, Zen: The Authentic Gate, Ch. 1, "Suffering and Modern-Day Humanity," pp. 3-9.
  • Optional Secondary Reading: Thich Nhat Hanh, Old Path White Clouds, Ch. 26, "Water Rises, Too, p. 166.
For subsequent weeks (through May 18): See Schedule for Reading.

Questions
  1. In the opening chapter, Yamada addresses suffering, death, and morality. Suffering: Yamada notes that "life could be called a display of all the different forms of suffering and anxiety." However, instead of confronting our suffering, "we attempt to escape it, seeking momentary distraction in the outside world through liquor, gaming, betting at the track, sexual misadventures, the glare of neon, and the blare of loud music in the streets." What's your preferred mode of distraction?
  2. Death: Yamada notes that the "great" accomplishments don't last very long. "Alexander the Great, Caesar, Toyotomi Hideoyoshi" -- "in less than a thousand years their achievements all but disappear....when looked at from the perspective of eternity, the accomplishments of humankind amount to so little. Where does the true meaning behind our efforts lie?" Where does the true meaning of our efforts lie?
  3. Morality: Yamada cites examples of moral precepts: "Never tell a lie, always be truthful. Be unsparing and searching with yourself. Do not take the life of living things. Honor your parents." He then says, "These are all fine sentiments. But it is necessary to bring back the moral basis whereby we can teach such things." What is this basis?
This Week's Raven Tale: #85, The Self -- HERE

See Youtube video of Sanbo Zen teachers talking about Zen (4:56): HERE.

2019-01-01

Raven 85: The Self

The self is passion. You don't need to think about your passion too much -- just have it, and watch it. I won't say embody it, since you can't not. I will say: if you take it for real, it can wear you out.

Case
Badger came to Raven privately and asked, "What is the self?"
Raven said, "Passion."
Badger asked, "Why are we told to forget it?"
Raven said, "Forget it!"
Badger said, "That's scary."
Raven croaked.
Badger sat back on his haunches and was silent.
Raven said, "Now I'm tired."
Verse
This mouth opens, and out I come:
A draft of air and jetsam.
Air: breath, warm and humid, de-oxygenated.
Jetsam: vocabulary, syntax, accent, tone, and
Voice that could be no one else’s —
Tossed from a foundering vessel.

This mouth opens, and out I come:
A current of particularity and karmic goo,
Not at all the luminous seaworthy universality,
I dreamed sailing into port.

When I'm not haunted this way,
When dreams of absoluteness are wakened from,
Or the wreckage recognized as their realization,
Then this mouth opens, and out I come, and
Maybe my eddies of debris and yours
Dance.
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Raven 84

2018-12-28

Win. 1: Dec 24 - 30

Winter, week 1
"Prophets...must establish and maintain the aspiration to be free. They must love the whole of life so completely that they embody joy in the face of suffering. Indeed, they know them to be two faces of the one lover" --angel Kyodo williams
Saturday Zen: Sat Dec 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, Wed, & Thu, 6:00 - 7:15am
Basement Zendo. See HERE.

Chants
For Mon Dec 24 - Sun Dec 30:
  • Ten Grave Precepts, p. S3
  • The Four Commitments, p. 65
  • The Fourfold Commitment to Justice, p. 66
Opening and Closing for Mon Dec 3 - Sun Dec 30:
  • Opening: Do Your Best, p. 20
  • Closing: Awakening to Discouragement, p. 73
See: Boundless Way Zen Sutra Book, 4th ed.   ☙   Supplement   ☙   BoWZ Westchester Chant Schedule

Reading for Sat Dec 29:
  • Primary Reading: Radical Dharma, angel Kyodo williams, "A New Dharma: Prophetic Wisdom and the Rise of Transcendent Movements," pp. 191-204.
  • Optional Secondary Reading: Thich Nhat Hanh, Old Path White Clouds, Ch. 25, "Music's Lofty Peaks," p. 162.
For subsequent weeks (through May 18): See Schedule for Reading.
Next book begins Jan 5: Koun Yamada, Zen: The Authentic Gate. Order from Wisdom Publications (HERE) or Amazon (HERE).

This Week's Raven Tale: #84, Trust -- HERE

See Youtube dialog with angel Kyodo williams and Lama Rod Owens (29:53): HERE.

See angel Kyodo williams' TED talk: HERE.